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Men...s Hoops Makes Their First NEWMAC Title Game

By Brian Chase

MIT Men’s Basketball out-hustled, outplayed, and outstripped Coast Guard in a 69-57 victory Saturday afternoon that sent the Engineers to the NEWMAC Championship Tournament Final Sunday. Despite giving the edge to Coast Guard in shooting percentage, rebounds, and free throws, MIT led by 20 with five minutes remaining, thanks to 21 Coast Guard turnovers that limited their shots and allowed MIT to cruise to victory in the closing minutes.

In the first two minutes, although MIT could not get good dribble or pass penetration in the paint, Coast Guard turned the ball over twice, once to Michael W. D’Auria ’06 and once to James M. Bartolotta ’09, leading to 3 MIT points. Coast Guard responded by getting passes inside the paint on their next two possessions, resulting in four points on a bucket and two free throws.

The rest of the half progressed similarly — MIT had trouble getting near the basket, but managed to sink enough three-pointers and jumpers to stay in the game. Coast Guard, for its part, turned the ball over twice as many times as MIT, but their inside penetration helped them make the shots they did get. MIT’s perimeter defense, led by D’Auria, Bartolotta, and Daniel F. Kanamori ’06 should get a lot of credit for hassling the Coast Guard ball handlers and creating easy transition buckets.

Hamidou Soumare ’08 helped MIT’s guards in the first half with three rebounds and two steals. The second steal occurred with a little under four minutes remaining in the half and MIT up 25-24, as Soumare (or “Dou” as the MIT fans were chanting) leapt on a Coast Guard pass and punched it up the court. Running after the ball, he scooped it up and elevated for a thunderous dunk. Flustered by the slam, Coast Guard’s Al Sowers sailed a pass out of bounds and the entire arena shook with the cry of “DOUUUUUU.”

MIT picked up the momentum from there and closed the half on an 11-6 run, helped along by back-to-back three point plays from D’Auria and Bartolotta and a sweet three pointer by Alexander G. Krull ’07, shooting with a hand in his face.

MIT continued to roll in the second half by keeping the pressure on the Bears’ guards and finally getting some penetration, most spectacularly on no-look passes from Kanamori and D’Auria. Soumare added a three point play of his own, and when the Coast Guard fans chanted “OVER-RATED” during his extra point attempt, he sank it and wiggled his fingers at them while running back the other way.

William D. Mroz ’08 got MIT fans cheering when he substituted in with nine minutes left in the game and immediately sank two three pointers, pushing the MIT lead up to 62-39 with under 8 minutes to go.

After that point, Coast Guard got desperate, beginning to lose control on offense and tossing up more off-balance shots. They also experimented with full-court pressure and double-teaming the MIT ball carrier when he crossed half court. MIT did only score seven points the rest of the way, but it’s questionable whether this was because of Coast Guard’s defense or because MIT was trying to use the clock rather than worrying as much about scoring. Either way, Coast Guard was not able to capitalize and could only watch as the seconds ticked away, leaving the team 12 points away from the advancing to championship game when the clock hit 0:00.

D’Auria was MIT’s top scorer with 17 points on six field goals, two threes, and three free throws. Bartolotta followed closely behind with 14. Soumare was Tech’s leading rebounder with 7 (three of them offensive boards), followed by Bartolotta with 4. Coast Guard’s top scorer was Jeff Prebeck, with 23 points, nine of them free throws. MIT shot only 47 percent on the night to Coast Guard’s 50 percent, but took 27 more shots, as Coast Guard committed 21 turnovers to Tech’s 10.