Babson Park, MA --- The battle for second place in the NEWMAC came down to the final 30 seconds of action in the regular season finale for the WPI women's basketball team on Saturday afternoon. The Engineers battled Babson to the final buzzer in a tough 63-62 loss to the Beavers.
Babson (17-6, 8-1 NEWMAC) locked up the No. 2 seed in the NEWMAC Championships with the last second victory, while WPI (18-4, 7-3) finished in a tie for third overall alongside Springfield and MIT. In a tiebreaker that came all the way down to a common non-conference opponent, Springfield edged WPI for the No. 3 seed, while the Engineers have now locked up the No. 4 seed and will play host to No. 5 MIT on Wednesday night at 7pm in the NEWMAC Quarterfinals at Harrington Auditorium.
With 41 seconds left in regulation, 0 fouls, and the ball in the hands of Babson, the Engineers began to foul, racking up four in the span of 7 seconds. With four fouls and 36 seconds remaining, on the next inbounds play, McKenna Finken (Simsbury, CT) dove after the ball, creating a jump ball situation and getting the ball back for the Engineers.
Babson drove down the length of the court, calling a timeout of its own with just 7.4 seconds remaining, setting up a play that allowed Samantha Smith (Greenfield, MA) to slip past her defender thanks to a screen by her teammate and right to the basket where she finished with the ultimate game-winning layup after a perfect pass from Kiara Simone Davis (Coral Springs, FL).
The Crimson and Gray did not have a timeout at their disposal following the go-ahead basket yet drove the length of the court, but Finken's shot from just inside the lane, which fell, was released just after the final buzzer sounded.
Smith finished with nine points and six rebounds on the day, while Davis added 11 points and four assists, including the game-winner. Megan Bauman (East Lyme, CT) finished with a game-high 18 points for the Beavers.
The Engineers were led by a 14 point effort from Kara ONeil (Holden, MA) off the bench, while Finken added 13 points. Raynowska chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Beavers had control of the first period leading 18-11 after the first 10 minutes of action, but WPI battled back in the second period cutting the lead to just two, 30-28 advantage Babson, heading into halftime. The Engineers evened things up after the third period and the two teams headed into the final quarter tied at 43-all setting up the exciting finish that featured a jawdropping 16 lead changes in the 11:16 of the contest.
The contest also had NCAA regional ranking implications as the Beavers are fourth and the Enginners fifth in the most recent NCAA Division III Region II rankings.
Both teams return to the court Wednesday night at 7pm with No. 4 WPI hosting No. 5 MIT. No. 2 Babson will also play host to No. 7 Emerson in the NEWMAC Quarterfinals.