CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Junior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) poured in 24 points en route to tournament Most Outstanding Player honors to help No. 3 MIT win the 2012 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball championship with a 65-60 win over Springfield College at Rockwell Cage on Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Engineers clinch their fourth-straight NCAA tournament appearance by winning the conference title for the third time in four years.
Kates shot 10-for-16 from the field while adding six assists in 39 minutes of play. Senior Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, Utah) had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards and senior Billy Bender (The Woodlands, Texas) stuffed the stat sheet with four points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Junior Alex Berthiaume (Springfield, Mass.) had a game-high 25 points in the loss to go along with five assists. Pat Rossi (Rock Tavern, N.Y.) was also in double figures with 10 and Ryan Coburn (West Warwick, R.I.) and Jordan Rote (Sheffield, Mass.) added eight points apiece.
The score was tied at 55 with 3:13 to go before Kates and Berthiaume exchanged buckets to keep things knotted at 57. After a missed three-pointer from Hollingsworth, junior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) picked up his fifth foul, sending Evan Christner (Voorheesville, N.Y.) to the line for a pair. Christner was only able to convert one-of-two to put give the Pride a 58-57 lead with 1:45 to play.
Kates made a contested, reverse layup to put the Cardinal and Gray back on top and Rote would turn the ball over at the other end. Hollingsworth then knocked down a tough jump-hook on the ensuing MIT possession to extend the lead to three, 61-58, with just 39 seconds to go. The Engineers would pick up a key defensive stop on Springfield's next trip down the court and iced the game by going four-for-four from the foul line in the final 20 seconds.
Tech led by as many as 14 early in the second half, after consecutive buckets by Tashman and Kates to force a Springfield timeout less than a minute into the period. The Pride would battle back thanks to a 12-3 run midway through the frame. Rossi's jumper with 5:01 to play gave Springfield its first lead since the 4:23 mark of the first, and the teams would trade baskets over the next few possessions, setting up the dramatic finish.
The visitors led by as many as seven in the first half, before the top-seeded Engineers came storming back, closing out the opening stanza on a 17-4 run that was started by back-to-back steals by Bender, to take a 37-27 advantage into the locker room.
Springfield falls to MIT in the NEWMAC championship game for the second time in four years and sees its terrific season come to a close at 17-10 overall.
MIT will head back to the NCAA Division III tournament for the fourth consecutive season and will await its postseason fate to be announced during tomorrow's NCAA tournament selection show, to be aired on NCAA.com on Monday at 12:00 p.m.