WORCESTER -- A second-half surge, paced by a 23-point effort from NEWMAC Tournament MVP John Lowther (Hingham, MA), helped the WPI men's basketball team capture its first NEWMAC Championship Tournament title since the 2013 season on Saturday afternoon before a raucous crowd at Harrington Auditorium.
The No. 1 seeded Engineers (24-2) entered the second half down two points to No. 3 Emerson (18-7) and used an 18-2 run capped off by a John Adams (Douglas, MA) slam, to gain an insurmountable lead en route to the victory.
With the win, WPI has secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season and appears to be in line to host the first and second round next Friday and Saturday. The selections and bracket will be announced on Monday, Feb. 28 at 12:30 pm ET on NCAA.com. Emerson, which defeated Babson Thursday night in overtime in the semifinals, is in the mix for at-large bid as well.
The NEWMAC Tournament championship title was the fourth for the Engineers (2022, 2013, 2006, 2005) and the squad will be making its 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Chris Bartley, in his 21st season at the helm, has been a part of 12 of those NCAA trips.
After the Lions led for the majority of the first half, the Engineers came out of halftime with a purpose as Aidan Callahan (Rowley, MA) registered four-straight points, followed by an Adams layup, forcing Emerson to call a timeout just two minutes into the second half.
Coming out of the break, Emerson made a layup but Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) responded on the ensuing possession with a trey. Lowther followed with back-to-back-to-back buckets with the final coming as an and-one, followed by an Adams slam that capped off the run with emphasis as the Engineers amassed a lead that Emerson was unable to overcome.
Emerson was able to cut the lead to nine a handful of times, but would never get any closer as the Engineers made seven-straight free throws in the final minute of action to seal the win.
Eighteen of Lowther's 23 points came in the second half of action as the junior also pulled down four rebounds and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Adams added a monster 15-point, 15-rebound double-double, his first-career 15-15 effort and Callahan chipped in 11 points and four rebounds while Downing finished with seven points and 10 boards. The ever-efficient Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) netted eight points, six boards and five assists while Logan O'Donnell (Fishkill, NY) dodged foul trouble to register four points.
Emerson was led by a 21-point effort from Jarred Houston (Norwood, MA) who finished with a 21-point, 12-rebound effort as Zach Waterhouse (Hampton, NH) added 13 points, nine boards and four assists.
The NEWMAC title sweep marks the first time a team has completed the feat since the 2015-16 season when Babson won both the regular season and tournament titles.