The MIT’s Men’s Basketball team had reason to celebrate last weekend, winning two games to earn the title of NEWMAC champions.
The Engineers were a dominant force in their semifinals match against the Babson Beavers. The Beavers were held to 36 percent from the field, with only 7.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc — MIT’s defense was tough.
MIT consistently played better than Babson throughout the game, keeping a lead from the beginning. The team looked solid, maintaining a tight defense and a team-oriented offense which was centered on passing. Half of the teams field goals were made from assists, and the team managed a high 55.3 field goal percentage.
Mitchell H. Kates ’13 led the team in scoring with 19 points. Solid performances were seen by many on MIT’s team: William Tashman ’13 scored 14 points with four assists and six rebounds; Noel Hollingsworth ’12 made 16 points, two of two from 3-point range and collected two blocks and eight rebounds (four offensive); and William E. Bender ’12 scored 12 points and managed eight rebounds. With an all-around great team effort, MIT cruised to an easy 65-42 win.
MIT’s championship game against Springfield College proved to be a much greater challenge. Springfield played MIT off of a tough 66-60 win against WPI, which is the only team that has beaten MIT (25-1) this season.
The game started rough for the Engineers; within the first five minutes Springfield managed a 10-3 lead, during which MIT was one of six from behind the arc, one of seven from the field. MIT was quick to respond with two baskets from Hollingsworth, a free throw from Tashman, and a 3 from Kates found the team in striking distance. Kates then lit up on the field, bringing the team within one, with 11 straight points, down 22-23. Bender, whom MIT fans have nicknamed “Sneaky,” managed to earn the team three steals in less than 1.5 minutes, and, with a free throw, on a drive off a steal, he tied up the game 23-23 with 4:23 left. His second free throw bounced off of the basket into the hands of freshman Andrew M. Acker, who brought the ball back up for a layup which gained the crowd’s approval and was the start of MIT’s drive for the lead in the first half.
With two minutes left in the first half, MIT found itself ahead 29-25; freshman Dennis R. Levene, who had found himself with three fouls in his first minute of play, sent a pass to Bender for a 3. Daniel K. McCue ’12 finished the half with an offensive rebound followed by a jump shot and a 3-point field goal to end the half with a 10 point lead, 37-27, sending the crowd into an “M-I-T” chant.
MIT’s momentum at the end of the first half managed to roll into the second half but was short lived. The Engineers kept Springfield from scoring for nearly the first three minutes of the half, up by as much as 14 during the start of the half, making it appear as if MIT would coast for the rest of the half — this wasn’t the case.
NEWMAC and Springfield’s scoring leader Alex Berthiaume, challenged MIT. From 15:43 to 9:33, he cut what was a 12 point lead down to a five point, 51-46 lead for MIT, scoring 11 points on top of an assist. After a layup by Kates at 9:15, Pat Rossi of Springfield College lead his team on offense with six points as they kept MIT from scoring for over 4.5 minutes, taking a 54-53 lead on MIT with five minutes left to play. The two teams exchanged baskets to see Springfield up 58-57 with 1:45 left. Kates then drove to the basket, maneuvering through the Springfield players, to make a layup and bring MIT ahead 59-58 with only 1:37 left. After a turnover by Springfield, MIT was able to run the clock down to :39, when Hollingsworth was forced to take a difficult jump shot over a tough Springfield defense. Upon scoring the goal, MIT’s crowd went wild, as the basket provided a three-point lead and safety net for MIT, up 61-58. MIT secured the game with perfect free throw shooting during the last 20 seconds from James D. Karraker ’12 and Kates.
MIT ended the game with a 65-60 victory and fans stormed the court as the buzzer rang. The faces of MIT players and coaches were illuminated with smiles as they secured their second NEWMAC championship in a row and their third victory in four years. MIT, ranked third nationally, has an even bigger prize on their mind this year: the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball championship. As talented and skilled of a team they have proven to be this year, this big win is certainly attainable.