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MIT Finishes Season With Overtime Victory

By Christopher P. Anderson

ANNOUNCER

The MIT Women’s Basketball team just wasn’t ready to send their seniors out with a loss. The Engineers roared back from a 22-point second-half deficit to force overtime, then dominated the extra period for a 64-51 win over New England powerhouse Springfield College last Saturday.

Junior Maria E. Hidalgo ’04 scored a game-high 19 points, including the late-game basket that gave MIT its first lead, and Rayna B. Zacks ’05 and Crystal A. Russell ’03 both recorded double-doubles, but it was the stifling second-half defense and incredible team poise that stole the show.

The Springfield Pride rolled into Saturday’s game with a 16-5 record and the number one spot in NEWMAC play, at 5-1. But MIT’s (12-9, 5-2) monumental upset creates a four-team logjam atop the conference in the fight for playoff seeding, where the top four teams host a first-round game. It was a fitting end to Senior Day, where Connie Yang ’03 and co-captains Megan C. Daugherty ’03 and Russell were honored prior to tipoff in their final regular-season home game.

Tech digs big hole early

The first half looked inauspicious. MIT missed their first eight shots of the game, continuing a recent offensive slump, and their knack for turning the ball over helped Springfield to a 26-16 halftime lead. The Pride shot 40 percent from the field and held Tech’s “twin towers” Russell and Zacks to 10 total points.

The second half started just as poorly, and when Springfield freshman Kim Lipinski converted a three-point play with 11:06 remaining to extend their lead to 22 points, it looked as though the Pride would be one step closer to clinching the regular season NEWMAC title and gaining home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But at that point the fire ignited in the Engineers as they began an amazing comeback.

Comeback starts with defense

Wiping clean memories of their runaway home loss to Babson the previous week, MIT went on a 23-0 run that finished with Hidalgo’s off-balance jumper with 32 seconds to go, giving Tech their first lead of the afternoon. The offense was patient, often passing three or four times, waiting for an opportunity and then capitalizing. The ferocious rebounding of Russell and Zacks, who combined for 37 total boards, paced the superb defensive effort, which held Springfield without a field goal for the final eleven minutes of regulation.

The score stood at 47-46 in MIT’s favor when Springfield’s Kacey Wunsch was fouled with 14 seconds left in the game. With the crowd of over 300 in a mixture of suspense and disbelief, Wunsch’s first attempt rattled out of the basket. She successfully sunk the second to tie the game, and after MIT junior Lauren Tsai’s long-distance three-pointer caromed off the rim, the clock was reset to five minutes for overtime.

MIT scored more points in overtime (17) than they did in the first half, racing past an exhausted Springfield squad that had by that point simply run out of gas. Fittingly, Daugherty scored the final points and Russell grabbed the final rebound, dribbling off the final 18 seconds to a standing ovation. After the final buzzer, the raucous crowd refused to leave as the team gathered on the court with families and friends.

The Engineers’ work is not done; they travel to New London, Connecticut tomorrow to play conference co-leader Coast Guard, and the NEWMAC tournament begins Tuesday, Feb. 25.