WORCESTER --- It took an overtime period to determine the NEWMAC men's basketball champion on Sunday afternoon at Harrington Auditorium as No. 5 Coast Guard was able to overtake No. 2 WPI, 89-86. The Engineers amassed a sizeable halftime lead, but Coast Guard fought back to force the extra period and came away with the title game victory.
Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA) did everything he could for WPI (20-7) on Sunday afternoon finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds on the day, while Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) added 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA) pulled down 12 rebounds, while adding six points.
The Bears (14-13) also had a pair of 20-point scorers and were paced by Tyler Perez's (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) 23 points, seven rebounds and four steals while Tournament Most Outstanding Player Noah Baldez (Lower Gwenedd, PA) added 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the game.
A McNamara 3-pointer started things off quickly for the Engineers while Stephenson was able to rally off four-straight baskets, including an and-one opportunity to build up the WPI lead to nine, 19-10 with 12:15 to go in the first half.
That stretch was followed by a 15-0 run, that saw points from Stephenson, Reid Walker (Tampa, FL), Lou Doherty (Arlington, MA), Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) and John Lowther (Hingham, MA) to build up a 36-14 lead, one that the Engineers would be able to hold as they headed into the half up 47-23 over Coast Guard.
But the Bears came out on a mission in the second half and were able to whittle the monster WPI lead down to just one using a 20-3 run over a five-minute stretch to make it a 53-52 game with 11:59 remaining.
But Walker answered in the next possession with an important trey and a couple minutes later added a free throw to make it a five-point ballgame.
Coast Guard kept coming and was able to even the score and gain a four-point advantage, its biggest of the game on a Perez 3-pointer, but Doherty answered with a trey of his own and after a McNamara and-one, the game was even once again with just under six minutes to go.
It was neck-and-neck down the final stretch and Stephenson was able to hit some clutch shots for the Engineers including a jumper with less than a minute remaining and a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to give WPI a one-point lead heading into the final possession.
Coast Guard's Justin Kane (Arnold, MD) made just one of two free throws with seven seconds left and the two teams headed to overtime tied at 77-all.
In the extra period, Coast Guard built up an early lead that the Engineers were just unable to overcome as a potential game-tying 3-pointer misfired, giving the Bears their third NEWMAC title and first since back-to-back crowns in 2006 and 2007.
Both teams will await their postseason fate which will be announced during the DIII men's basketball selection show on Monday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.