• Tyler Smith

NEWMAC Tournament Recap

Championships are coming back to Division III hoops.

 

The New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference crowned its newest champion after a second-half surge from top-seeded Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which defeated Emerson, 70-54, in the title game. The Engineers earned their fourth NEWMAC tournament championship and first since 2013.

 

After falling behind by two points at the halftime break, WPI capped off an 18-2 run with a dunk from sophomore forward John Adams. The Engineers never looked back thereafter. Below are the rest of the tournament games—plus a national championship tournament outlook for WPI.


Quarterfinals

 

No. 5 MIT def. No. 4 Clark

Only five of the 12 NEWMAC teams compete in the conference tournament, and a single quarterfinal matchup between the No. 4-and-5 seeds, similar to an MLB Wild Card Game, rounds out the semifinal group.

 

Fifth-seeded MIT defeated fourth-seeded Clark University 88-71, on a scorching-hot display from beyond the three-point line. The Beavers knocked down 11 triples on 18 attempts, while playing a generous brand of basketball. Of their 28 made field goals, 21 of them came off assists.

 

Senior guard Ian Hinkley, who made the most three-pointers in the conference this season with 74, led the way with 26 points, including seven triples. Senior forward Giannis Chatziveroglou made his living from inside the arc, chipping in 22 points with no threes attempted.

First-year guard Isaiah Taylor scored 21 points for Clark, and graduate forward Tyler Davern followed closely behind with 20 points.

 

Semifinals

 

No. 1 WPI def. No. 5 MIT

The first of WPI’s two victories came in a semifinal matchup with quarterfinal winner MIT. The Engineers took care of business in a wire-to-wire win over the Beavers, 68-52.

 

Graduate guard Colin McNamara pushed the Engineers toward victory with 24 points on 7-13 shooting and a perfect 6-6 clip at the free-throw line. John Adams got involved in every aspect on the floor, chipping in a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double while dishing out five assists.

 

Senior guard Julian Manyika scored 18 points, and junior guard Alex Cho followed with 14 points for the Beavers.

 

No. 3 Emerson def. No. 2 Babson

In what was the most thrilling game of the tournament, the Emerson Lions had a tad more gas left in the tank and took advantage once the game hit overtime. The Lions went on a 10-2 run in the extra period and advanced to the final, 85-77.

 

Emerson found itself down five points with 15 seconds remaining in the second half. Chad Dicenzo found an easy layup, but the Lions needed a turnover. They got their wish as the Beavers threw the ball away. Sophomore guard Trevor Arico sunk a three-pointer with three seconds left to send the game to overtime.

 

Senior center Jarred Houston didn’t come off the floor, playing all 45 minutes and finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds on 10-14 shooting. Senior guard Zach Waterhouse only took a one-minute breather, playing 44 minutes. Waterhouse led the Lions with 28 points.

 

No Beaver could eclipse 20 points, but four of five starters scored 13 or more points. Senior forward Colin Bradanese led the Beavers with 18 points. Sophomore forward Kieran Dorney had a monster double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Championship

 

No. 1 WPI def. No. 3 Emerson

WPI’s aforementioned 18-2 run in the second half flipped the script on a first half decided by two points. The Engineers coasted to their fourth NEWMAC title with the 70-54 victory over the Lions.

 

Each team shot below 40% from the field and below 30% from long distance. The Lions also shot poorly from the free-throw line, connecting on only nine of their 18 attempts.

 

The game was won on the heels of tight defense and capitalizing off of turnovers. The Engineers forced 12 giveaways and scored 15 points directly as a result.

 

No real standout performances came from either side, but tournament MVP John Lowther scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, spearheading the deciding scoring run. John Adams finished with a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds.

 

Houston led the Lions once again with 21 points and 12 rebounds, playing a combined 84 minutes in back-to-back nights.

 

National Championship Outlook

The winners of nine straight games, the WPI Engineers have punched their ticket to the national championship tournament. With both two losses on the season and an unnerving halftime scare in the NEWMAC title game, the team could be a bracket buster or on upset watch depending on the opponent they draw.

 

The Engineers start only one player above 6’5. If they match up with a team that has legitimate size and a capable offensive threat down low, the size difference could pose bad news for the conference champions. WPI’s hot run of late could also spell trouble for their opposition.

 

The 64-team bracket has been announced, and WPI will host both the first and second rounds of the tournament. The Engineers knocked off 18-8 Vassar College in the round of 64, and advanced to a second-round matchup with Penn State Harrisburg which will take place on March 5. The semifinals and national title game will be played March 18-19.


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