WORCESTER, Mass. – No. 2 seed MIT led for most of the contest, but a scoring drought over the final five minutes proved costly for the Engineers as they fell to No. 3 seed Springfield College, 68-60, in a thriller of a semifinal game of the 2013 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament. Senior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) led the Engineers with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Alex Berthiaume (Springfield, Mass.) and junior Sean Martin (Rindge, N.H.) each had 21 points to lead the Pride, who will meet host WPI for the conference title tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.
Over the first five minutes of the contest MIT's offense was clicking as the Engineers pulled out to a 10-point lead. MIT (20-5) started on a 7-0 run, with Tashman scoring six of the points. Martin hit a three for Springfield's first points of the game, but the Engineers stayed in control early and when freshman Justin Pedley (Kennewick, Wash.) hit a trey for MIT at the 14:55 mark it gave MIT an 11-4 lead.
Springfield reeled off six straight points, four from Berthiaume, to close to within four. The Pride still trailed by four with 11:31 left in the half when senior James Burke (Scotch Plains, N.J.) hit back-to-back threes to lead MIT to its biggest lead of the contest to that point, 26-14.
Springfield came back with a 7-2 run to close to 26-21 after a basket by junior Robbie Burke (Cheshire, Mass.), but MIT answered with a 6-2 spurt to pull back out to a 34-23 advantage after a jumper from sophomore Matt Redfield (Los Altos, Calif.) with a minute to go in the half. The Pride came back, however, getting a three from Martin that enabled Springfield to finish the final minute of the half on a 7-0 run to make it a 34-30 contest at the half.
MIT came out and scored the first five points of the second half to go up 39-30 before Springfield came back with four straight, making it a 39-34 game on a basket by sophomore Nick Sienkiewicz (Cranston, R.I.). From there the two teams battled back and forth for the next 12 minutes. MIT led by as many as 10 after a basket by Burke five minutes into the half, but the Engineers could not extend the lead any further. Three minutes later a conventional three-point play by Sienkiewicz brought the Pride back to within six and it stayed close the rest of the way.
With 6:48 left Springfield finally tied the game, as sophomore Josh Altman (Rockport, Mass.) knotted things up at 52-52 with a three-point shot. MIT came back with five straight points, with a trey from senior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) putting the Engineers back on top 57-52 with five minutes left.
Springfield's defense turned up the pressure from that point on, forcing the MIT offense to go cold. The Engineers did not score again until the final seconds of the game, setting the stage for the comeback by the Pride. Berthiaume and Martin did it all on their own, with each scoring six points of a 12-0 Springfield run that proved to be the difference in the contest. A jumper by Martin gave Springfield its first lead of the contest at 58-57 with 3:02 left and his free throws with 32 seconds left put the Pride up 64-57.
Kates broke the scoring drought for the Engineers with a trey, but with just 15 seconds left and trailing 64-60 it proved to be too little, too late. Berthiaume and Martin each sank a pair of free throws in the final seconds to ice the victory for the Pride.
Redfield finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for MIT, with Burke reaching double figures in scoring with 11 points. MIT out shot Springfield, 42.3 to 38.1 percent, but the Pride held a 39-35 edge on the boards. Junior Robbie Burke added 11 points for Springfield and also led the Pride with 10 rebounds.
MIT will now have to wait until Monday when the NCAA releases the bracket for the 2013 Men's Basketball Tournament to see if it can get an at-large bid.