Worcester, Mass. - February 24, 2013 - The Springfield College men's basketball battled back from a 14-point second-half deficit but ultimately fell in overtime to WPI, 79-72, in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Championship on Sunday afternoon.
For the Pride, who dropped to 19-8, it marked its third trip to the conference championship in the past five season and its second-straight. WPI, sixth in the most recent D3hoops.com Top 25, claimed its third NEWMAC Tournament title and first since 2006 as it improved to 25-2.
Springfield will now await to see if it earns an at-large berth to the NCAA Championship. The official word on a trip to the national tournament will come on Monday at 12:30 on the selection show that will be broadcast on NCAA.com. Springfield's last trip to the NCAA's came in 2005 when it received an at-large bid.
WPI's Ryan Kolb was named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player as he connected on 8-of-17 field goals and 11-of-14 from the charity stripe en route to establishing a new career-high of 29 points. The game played in front of a boisterous crowd of 1,800 in Harrington Auditorium.
Robbie Burke continued his strong tournament, missing a double-double by just a rebound. The junior forward amassed 18 points and nine boards to go along with four steals while Josh Altman finished with 14 points, three assists and a pair of steals. Nick Sienkiewicz tossed in 10 points for the Pride and Sean Martin added nine points, five boards, three steals, and three assists. The conference's leading scorer, Alex Berthiaume was limited to a season-low six points after being plagued by foul trouble all day.
Marco Coppola contributed 14 points and a career-best seven assists while Joe Wesoloski and Matt Harrington aided the Engineers effort the nine points.
After Martin drilled a three from the top of the key to give Springfield a 15-14 lead at the 10:28 mark, the Engineers capitalized on four consecutive Springfield turnovers to pour on a 9-0 spurt, forcing head coach Charlie Brock into the first timeout of the game.
The run continued for the hosts, as Kolb scored four-straight to push the lead to 13, at 30-17. Pat Rossi finally hit a pair of free throws for the Pride's first points in 3:46.
Springfield cut the lead to nine after Martin made one free throw with 12 seconds left, however Zach Karalis canned a three with four ticks on the clock to give WPI a 40-28 lead heading into the break.
In a very physical first half, Berthiaume was saddled with two offensive fouls in the first 7:17 of the game. The senior guard was charged with his third offensive foul at the 4:47 mark, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the half.
The Engineers led by 14 early in the second half but Springfield tallied 25 of the next 33 points over the next 10 minutes to take a 61-58 advantage with 4:29 to go. Altman highlighted the spurt with seven points for the visitors.
From that point, Kolb took over, scoring WPI's final seven points of regulation. He netted a traditional 3-point play at 3:53 to tie the game at 61. Another Kolb layup forced the game's seventh tie with 1:56 left and his free throws put the Engineers ahead 67-65 with 51.3 seconds remaining. Altman evened the game on a drive in the lane with 26 seconds left. Springfield forced a WPI miss on the ensuing possession but Berthiuame's last second bid from behind the 3-point line bounced off the rim.
After shooting only 32.1% in the second half, the Engineers drained four-of-six field goals in the extra frame. Point guard Aaron Davis, who was also hampered by foul trouble made sure WPI never trailed in the overtime session, scoring the first two baskets.
WPI led by one at 73-72 when the Pride was whistled for another charge, to give the Crimson and Gray the ball back with 59.1 seconds remaining. On the other end, Coppola drilled a baseline jumper with 44.6 left to push the advantage to three. Following a Pride missed a 3-pointer, WPI canned four free throws in the final 24 seconds to secure the title.