Cambridge, Mass. –- February 25, 2012 -- Junior Alex Berthiaume (Springfield, Mass.) poured in a game-high 22 points to help propel the third-seeded Springfield College men's basketball team to a 66-60 win over WPI in the second of two New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) semifinal games at MIT’s Rockwell Cage on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Pride (17-9) will advance to tomorrow’s conference championship where it will face host MIT at 1:00 p.m. Springfield will be looking for its first NEWMAC conference crown since 2000.
Berthiaume shot eight-of-16 from the field and two-for-three from behind the arc while chipping in three rebounds and four assists. Senior Ryan Coburn (West Warwick, R.I.) added a team-high eight boards to go along with 13 points. Sophomore Sean Martin (Rindge, N.H.) was also in double figures for the Pride with 12.
Freshman Marco Coppola (Watertown, Mass.) was the leading scorer for the Engineers (18-7). Senior Matt Carr (Somersworth, N.H.) had eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.
Springfield led 50-38 with 11:34 to go before WPI rattled off nine straight points in a 2:21 span, capped by a three-pointer from Sam Longwell (Acton, Mass.) that sliced the Springfield advantage to three. The Engineers got to within two, at 57-55, with 5:22 to go and the two teams then went scoreless for nearly three minutes before Berthiaume hit a jumper in traffic to push the advantage back to four. WPI answered back quickly with a Coppola 13-foot jump shot, only to see Springfield answer at the other end on a layup by Coburn.
At that point, the Springfield defense stiffened and as the Pride missed the front-end of two one-and-ones, they forced the Crimson and Gray to miss its next four shots from the field and caused one turnover. The Pride eventually salted the game away from the free-throw line, making five-of-eight freebies down the stretch.
Springfield took a 31-30 lead into the intermission, despite WPI getting a combined 19 points from its freshmen (Coppola and Longwell). The Pride took the balanced route, with Berthiaume and Martin each pouring in seven points, and senior Jordan Rote (Sheffield, Mass.) providing a spark off the bench with six points and four rebounds, in a half that saw eight lead changes and four ties.
Springfield and MIT squared off for the NEWMAC championship in 2009, with MIT coming away with a 76-50 win over the Pride to win its first ever league crown. This marks the fifth appearance in the title game for Springfield since joining the league in 1998-99.