Babson led by as many as nine points in the second half in the final four minutes, but No. 3 Springfield forced overtime and cruised in the extra period to earn the semifinal win. The Pride advance to the NEWMAC Championship to take on No. 4 MIT. The last time Springfield won the conference crown was in 2000, but the Pride have made four appearances in the title game since that season.
Late in the second half, Joey Flannery gave the Beavers a 65-56 lead with 3:52 on the clock on a basket in the paint, but on the other end, Nick Sienkiewicz (Cranston, R.I) knocked down his third three-pointer of the game to make the score 65-59 with 3:43 to play. After a traveling violation by the Beavers, Sean Martin (Rindge, N.H.) got an easy look to the basket to make it a four point game in favor of Babson.
On the defensive end, Martin forced a Babson turnover, which was recovered by Tim Swenson (Millbury, Mass.). The Pride went down the court and Sienkiewicz hit his biggest three of the game, making it a 68-67 game with just 1:09 on the clock.
Martin was big down the stretch, going 3-for-4 from the foul line in the last 2:30 of regulation to keep the Pride within striking distance. Trailing by two points with 30 seconds left in the game, Sienkiewicz brought the Pride within one, getting fouled in the paint and hitting one free throw. With 25 seconds to go, Springfield sent Babson's Eric Dean to the foul line, where he went 1-for-2, making it a 70-68 game.
With 18 seconds left on the clock, Martin drove to the basket and netted the game-tying basket, to make it 70-70. Babson had one last crack at the end of regulation but Swenson blocked a shot and gobbled up the ensuing rebound to send the game to an extra session.
After Babson opened the extra period with a layup by Sam Bohmiller, it was all Springfield. First-year Nick McKenna (Danvers, Mass.) hit back-to-back three-pointers and Larry Piretra (Oakland, N.J.) drained one of his own to give Springfield a 79-74 lead with 2:08 to play in overtime. The Pride put the game away at the foul line, going 6-for-8 in the final 1:10. The Springfield defense took center stage in extra time, holding the Beavers to 2-of-12 shooting from the floor.
Springfield was led by Sienkiewicz and Martin with 18 points apiece. Sienkiewicz shot 4-of-7 from three and 6-of-8 from the foul line while Martin dished out six assists and had four steals to go along with his 18 point day. McKenna finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 from the perimeter. Swenson had a big game, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Robbie Burke (Cheshire, Mass.) added 11 points.
Babson was led by John Wickey with a team-high 17 points. Joey Flannery finished the day with 16 points, after the Pride held him to just two points on 0-of-5 shooting in the first half. The first year is averaging a league-best 19.2 points per game. He also had 12 boards in the game. Matt Palazini was also in double digit figures for the Beavers with a 15 point day.
The first half was back-and-forth and included six lead changes and six ties.
Springfield took its first lead on a Sienkiewicz three-pointer 3:30 into the half to go up 5-4 but Babson went on a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the half, 13-5 over the Pride with 13:50 to play in the first. The run started on a jumper from Kenny Ross and concluded with a basket in the paint from David Mack, spanning 2:50.
Springfield answered back on back-to-back threes by McKenna, who cut the lead to just two points, 13-11 with 13:09 on the clock.
A three-pointer from Ross put Babson up 16-13, but a three-point play by Burke, who converted the basket and the foul, knotted things up, 16-16 with 10:11 left in the first.
Swenson gave Springfield's its biggest lead of the half on a basket in the paint off a feed from Alex Garstka (Westfield, Mass.), going up 24-20 with 5:25 left in the first.
Back-to-back baskets from Wickey and a three-pointer by Palazini gave Babson a 27-24 advantage with 2:05 left on the clock. Wickey had a strong half for Babson, hitting a second-chance jumper at the buzzer to put the Beavers up 31-26 at halftime. Wickey led all scorers with 12 points at the half.
Swenson brought some fire out of the locker room, opening the second half with a three-point play, getting the basket and the foul, cutting Babson's lead to 31-29 to open the half.
Garstka was key early on in the second, getting a basket underneath to cut the lead to just four points, as Babson led 43-39 with 13:32 to go. With 11:54 on the clock, Garstka drained a three-pointer to make it a one point game, 45-44.
Babson continued to push, holding the lead to around six points throughout the entire half, but the Pride stayed right within striking distance and got it done in overtime.
In Saturday's other semifinal game, No. 4 MIT upset top-seeded WPI to advance to the NEWMAC Championship on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at WPI.