By Matt Noonan
BABSON PARK, MA – Smith College may not be known for their success on the hardwood, but what Pioneers head coach Lynn Hersey saw on Saturday was a young squad beat a veteran and talented Worcester Polytechnic Institute team, 57-50, as well as earn a spot in Sunday’s conference championship game against Babson College.
“It’s a compliment to the players. They have executed, time in time out. We’re a young team just kind of riding the wave right now, so we’ll have to gear up [because] we have a big foe tomorrow,” said Hersey.
Not only did this win help Smith College punch their ticket to their first NEWMAC conference championship since 1998, but also, it marked their first win against the Engineers since 2004.
“WPI is such a well coached, well balanced team, I give them a lot of credit. It’s been hard to beat them, so that’s a compliment to them,” said Hersey.
“It was a good battle for a while and then when we needed to make some shots, we missed layups and they made shots,” said WPI head coach Cherise Galasso. “[Smith] ran the ball pretty hard the other way, so good job by them. Some of our key players did not put the ball in the basket, [but] sometimes it goes like that.”
The game began with both squads sharing baskets, one after another, but eventually Smith College built a small lead, as well as kept the NEWMAC’s fifth best offense off the boards and forced the Engineers to turn the ball over 19 times.
“Our kids just played really good defense today. Our interior, we must have had double digit blocks and our guards held their shooters and it’s just really a defensive effort that was the key for us today,” said Hersey.
Although, despite trailing 23-18 at halftime, the Engineers began the second half on an 8-2 run, which was due to Theresa Logan and Elle Fontaine’s shooting ability. Both players, who combined for 38-points, eventually cooled off and WPI allowed Smith to regain the lead for good.
The Pioneers offense not only began hitting shot after shot, but also, drove to the basket constantly, which sent Smith College to the line 11-times during the second half.
“We’ve been pretty good at finishing game at the foul lines and just maintaining focus and doing the little things. Getting our plays ready to inbound the ball and when the pressures coming, getting it to the right people, so they finished the game that way,” said Hersey.
WPI would attempt to cut the lead during the final few minutes, but could not defend Smith College’s shots.
“They executed better than we did and we missed a lot of shots that normally we do make,” said Galasso.
The Pioneers have never won a conference tournament and will look to earn their first NEWMAC championship on Sunday against Babson College, who has won both games the past two seasons.