Worcester, MA --- Zach Karalis' (North Andover, MA) rebound layup with 1.6 seconds to go lifted top seed and host WPI to a dramatic 66-64 victory over fifth-seeded Babson in a NEWMAC Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal on Saturday afternoon.
The Engineers, ranked sixth in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 and second in the most recent NCAA Division III Northeast rankings, imrpoves to 24-2 on the season to tie the program record for wins in season and advance to Sunday's 1pm championship game against the winner of the second semifinal between MIT and Springfield. Babson, who had entered with a three-game winning streak, sees its season come to an end with a 14-13 record.
WPI's Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) canned a pair of free throws with 1:57 left to tie the game at 61-61. On the ensuing possession, Aaron Davis (Marshfield, MA) forced a backcourt violation which led to a Karalis 3-pointer with 57.3 seconds remaining that equaled the Engineers biggest advantage of the game at 64-61. Babson would answer on the following possession with a 3-pointer from Matt Palazini (Franklin, MA) to even the score with 30.8 seconds left.
WPI passed on a timeout and looked to hold for the last shot. Davis got a look at a 3-pointer from the left wing that rimmed out but Karalis collected the rebound from the right block and put it in off the glass for the game-winner. The Beavers had one final crack but their desperate heave was off-line and the Engineers advanced to their seventh NEWMAC final in the last nine years.
Babson had led by nine points at 56-47 and had a chance to push the advantage into double figures with 8:28 but missed a pair of free throws that ignited a 12-3 run spearheaded by seven Marco Coppola (Watertown, MA) points forging the game's eighth tie.
Coppola registered a team-best 19 points while Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) joined Kolb with 16 points. Karalis tallied five of his 10 points in the final minute.
John Wickey (Manchester, NH) led all players with 20 points and nine rebounds. The junior forward connected on 9-of-13 shots from the field and added three assists. Palazini finished with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Peter Foley (Wells, ME) notched 11 points. Kenny Ross (Furlong, PA) handed out a game-high four assists despite being hampered by foul trouble.
Both teams shot the ball well in a first half that featured six lead changes and seven ties. Babson drained 62.1% of its field goal attempts while WPI, who misfired on its first four attempts canned 58.3% of its tries. The visiting Beavers used a Foley layup with 39 seconds to go before the break to take a 41-40 advantage into the locker room at the half.