Worcester, MA --- The WPI men's basketball team celebrated Senior Night on Wednesday and did right by its graduating players Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT), Chad LaBove (Shrewsbury, MA) and Drew Osei (Buffalo, NY) as the host Engineers pulled away in the second half, pocketing a 58-46 win over Wheaton to clinch at least a share of the NEWMAC regular season title with one game remaining.
WPI, ranked 12th in the most recent D3hoops.com Top 25 poll and fifth in the NCAA Division III New England regional rankings, claimed its ninth conference regular season title in the last 11 years and is in position to host the NEWMAC Tournament semifinals and championship on Saturday, March 1st and Sunday, March 2nd.
Junior Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) did the heavy lifting early with all 13 of his points in the first half, while Domenick Mastascusa (North Reading, MA) added 12, and Matt Harrington (Shrewsbury, MA) matched his career-high with 11 points, doing all his damage in the second half on 4-of-5 shooting after the break.
Mastascusa notched a double-double with 11 rebounds, 4 on the offensive glass.
WPI (21-3, 11-2 NEWMAC) strung together seven straight points for the decisive rally to make it 43-30 with 11:25 remaining. Wil Michalski (Shrewsbury, MA) scored five points over 11 minutes, but four of them came during that key stretch.
Wheaton freshman Agyei Gregory (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and helped spur the Lyons (8-14, 3-10) back into it, drawing it to, 43-35, with 9:46 to go, but they never came any closer after that.
Harrington drained a 3 ball on WPI's next trip down, followed by a Mastascusa bucket the possession after that as the Engineers never looked back. It was Harrington, again, who boosted WPI to its biggest lead, 58-41, with 1:22 to go.
The lead changed hands eight times in the first half, and the score pulled to a tie five times early on, but WPI jumped to its greatest advantage of the opening 20 minutes seven minutes in after Kolb got to the hoop to make it 12-8 Engineers.
Kolb finished his final regular season home game with seven points, six rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals, while LaBove contributed four points and five rebounds.
Wheaton came right back though, taking a 13-12 lead 9:14 in after a Will Bayliss (Manchester, NH) jumper and a 3-pointer by Billy Battaglia (Simsbury, CT).
Neither team led by more than two points the rest of the first half until Longwell drained a 3 with 41 seconds left to set the halftime score at 26-23 WPI. Longwell made five field goals in the opening 13:16, scoring 10 of WPI's first 19 points.
WPI caps off its regular season at 3pm. Saturday at Clark. Wheaton closes its campaign at 1pm Saturday, hosting Emerson on Senior Day.
Release by Carl Setterlund - WPI Athletics Intern - Emerson '14