NEWMAC Men’s Final Recap: MIT 65, Springfield College 60

By Hayden Bird

CAMBRIDGE, MA – For the second year in a row, the MIT Engineers stand alone atop the NEWMAC men’s basketball pyramid, winning the conference final against the Springfield College Pride, 65-60.

The game began poorly for the Engineers, as they had to work hard for any points. Their problems were compounded by the continued excellent play from Springfield junior Alex Berthiaume.

MIT recovered during the middle period of the first half, tying the game at 15 before gaining their first lead of the day on a three-pointer from junior Mitchell Kates, which was prophetic of future events.

The Engineers were keyed by some plain talk afterward from head coach Larry Anderson.

“We wanted to come here and exceed their intensity level,” noted Anderson. “We knew Springfield would bring that because all of us want to get to the dance.”

He was adamant that senior Billy Bender pick up his play, and sure enough Bender jumpstarted a late first half run by the Engineers with three steals in just under a minute and a half of play.

“Springfield started to get a little predictable,” said Bender. “So I could read their passes a little bit.”

That keyed a 17-4 run by MIT to close out the first half, where they led, 37-27.

The second half didn’t initially see things pick up for Springfield either, as MIT padded their lead, which at one point stood at 14 points.

Yet the Pride showed the kind of resiliency that got them to the NEWMAC championship in the first place. Chipping away at MIT’s advantage one basket at a time, they narrowed the margin before miraculously taking a 54-53 lead with five minutes to go.

Asked if he was surprised at Springfield’s resolve, Bender wasn’t.

“Last time we played Springfield, we were up 14 at halftime. They came back all the way and tied the game,” said Bender. “We have had a lot of games like that.”

And the Engineers certainly didn’t panic, especially their go-to guard, Mitchell Kates.

It was Kates who made several key plays, including the layup that broke the 55-55 deadlock.

“I just kind of found a lane,” said Kates. “And Springfield, I knew they weren’t going to go away.”

True to form, Springfield did not go away, taking the lead again with less than two minutes to go.

Yet in clutch time, Kates stepped up once again.

“I love the way he’s grown since his freshman year,” Anderson said of Kates play. “Not just as a basketball player, but as a leader.”

Finishing with a team-high 24 points and six assists, Kates was named tournament MVP. Kates’ ten second half points loomed large, because along with seniors Noel Hollingsworth and Jamie Karraker, they accounted for nearly all of MIT’s clutch-time scoring.

And though it was Berthiaume who finished with a game-high 25 points in another impressive display, MIT won the game 65-60 behind a more composed team effort.

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