Babson Park, MA -– First-year Marco Coppola (Watertown, MA) recorded a huge steal that led to the game-winning bucket with less than 10 seconds remaining to help the visiting WPI Engineers defeat host Babson, 70-68, in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball contest at Staake Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
Senior Jaime Shannon (Lowell, MA) scored a team-high 18 points while also adding a victory-clinching block as time expired for WPI, which improved to 11-2 overall and 2-0 in the conference. The senior guard shot 8-for-13 from the field, including a 2-for-3 clip from long range. Senior Matt Carr (Somersworth, NH) also had a big game for the Engineers, shooting 6-for-8 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the line for 17 points to go with game-highs of 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Sophomore Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) chipped in with 13 points and eight boards for the Engineers, and Coppola led all players with five assists.
For Babson (8-6 overall, 1-1 NEWMAC), junior Russell Braithwaite (Brooklyn, NY) scored a game-high 19 points to go with five rebounds and two steals. He shot 7-for-13 from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Junior Marcus McDermott (Milton, MA) tossed in 13 points and sophomore Matt Palazini (Franklin, MA) added 11 for the Beavers, and junior Alex Rudolph (Bal Harbour, FL) contributed nine points, five rebounds, and three assists.
The first half saw Babson surge out to a 9-3 advantage in the first two and a half minutes of play, thanks to four early points from McDermott. The Beavers would maintain the lead through the next eight minutes before an 8-0 run by WPI put the visitors in front, 21-19, with 7:44 to go in the period. Kolb sparked the burst with a three-pointer before Longwell followed with five straight points to give his team the lead.
A conventional three-point play by Rudolph moved Babson back in front with seven minutes left in the opening stanza – the first of five lead changes over the next four minutes. The Beavers then took the largest lead of the half for either team into the break, as Braithwaite scored the final eight points of the period to give the hosts a 40-33 cushion.
Babson's lead reached as many as 10 twice in the second half, including a 53-43 margin following a Rudolph free throw with 11:33 to go in the game. However, Shannon ignited the WPI offense with seven straight points during an 11-0 burst that helped the visitors regain the lead, 54-53, with just over nine minutes remaining.
The contest remained close from that point on, with WPI taking its largest lead of the afternoon after a Shannon jumper made it 62-58 with 4:14 on the clock. Back-to-back lay-ups by Braithwaite and senior captain Matt Florio (Skillman, NJ) then tied the game at 62-62 with 2:05 to go, and, after WPI moved back in front on a jumper by senior David Brown (Lowell, MA), Babson regained the advantage on a trifecta by Palazini off an inbounds play with 1:14 left.
Carr knocked down two free throws with 58.3 remaining to give WPI a 66-65 edge, and both teams came up empty on their next two possessions before Palazini hit another huge three-pointer to give Babson a 68-66 lead with 21 seconds showing. That set up a wild finish as WPI scored four points in the final 10 seconds to secure the victory.
After Shannon misfired on a three-pointer with 13 seconds left, Carr grabbed the offensive rebound and laid it in to tie the game at 68-68 with eight seconds on the clock. On the ensuing inbounds play, Coppola came up with a gigantic steal and fed Kolb, who converted the go-ahead lay-up with 2.4 seconds left.
Following a Babson timeout, Rudolph sent a baseball pass up the court to McDermott on the right wing, but his potential game-winning three-pointer was blocked by Shannon as the buzzer sounded, giving WPI the dramatic 70-68 victory.
Both teams return to action this coming Wednesday, when Babson heads west for a NEWMAC showdown with Springfield at 7:30pm. and WPI hosts non-conference foe Trinity at 7pm.
Release Courtesy Babson Sports Information
Photos by Mickey Goldin with a thanks to Mickey and Babson Sports Information