Reigning NEWMAC Player of the Week Jamaal Gibbs (Norwalk, Conn.) gave Springfield a 63-60 advantage when he beat the shot clock buzzer with an acrobatic 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining. After a pair of WPI free throws from Adam Lirette (Dover, NH), SC’s Ryan Blackmon (Stamford, Conn.) drained a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Pride a 66-62 edge with 2:27 left.
Each team then had an empty possession before Bourque put home an offensive rebound to slice the deficit to two with 1:29 remaining. WPI sandwiched a Jerome Kirkland (Boston, MA) free throw between two steals before Kirkland drained two more from the charity strip to give the Engineers a 67-66 lead with 36.1 seconds left. The Pride quickly regained the lead when Blackmon hit a driving lay-up with 21.9 seconds remaining. WPI went inside to Bourque, who drew a foul and connected on both free throws with 14.4 seconds left to give WPI an advantage they would not relinquish at 69-68.
The Pride got one more good look but could not connect. Kirkland was fouled on the ensuing rebound and drained one free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.
With the victory, the Engineers (17-5, 8-1) claim at least a share of its fifth straight NEWMAC regular season title. The Crimson and Gray can make it three consecutive outright crowns and earn a first round bye and the right to host the NEWMAC Tournament championship semifinals and finals with just one win or a Babson loss over the last three dates of conference play.
It was Springfield that set the pace in the early going of both halves. The Pride opened the game with a 11-2 spurt only to see the Engineers whittle away at the lead and eventually take a 33-30 edge into the intermission. SC embarked upon a 12-2 run to start the second half and forced the home-standing Engineers to play catch-up throughout most of the second stanza.
Jim Marois (Worcester, MA) paced the WPI offensive effort with 15 points while Kirkland chipped in with 11. Bourque and Lirette both contributed 10 points with Lirette dishing out a team-best five assists.
Springfield (9-12, 4-5 NEWMAC) received a game-high 19 points from Blackmon, who came off the bench and connected on 8-of-11 shots from the floor. Gibbs tossed in 15 points and added a game-best seven helpers while Pat Creen (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.) tallied 14 points and led all players with eight rebounds.
Both teams return to the hardwood with home games on Saturday. WPI hosts MIT at 3pm while the Pride entertains Wheaton at 1pm.