By Matt Noonan
WORCESTER, MA – After his team celebrated their first NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) championship in seven seasons, WPI men’s basketball coach Chris Bartley shared his thought’s on the Engineers overtime win against Springfield College, as well as the play of Ryan Kolb, who netted a career-best 29 points.
With the win, WPI earned an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Division III championship, which will commence next weekend.
On ending a seven-year championship drought: “It’s something that I think about all the time. I don’t think our guy’s do because they weren’t here for all of them. The only ones that have been here for all of them are Ryan Cain and I.”
On what worked for the Engineers this year: I think the big thing that helped us this year with this group is we really did a better job of not focusing on the outcome and just focusing on what we needed to do each day and each possession. We really broke it down and everything was like a microcosm, so I’m proud of that. I thought we handled it well and I’ve got to tell you that I did not sleep one second last night, so I was extremely confident because I might have past out on the bench for not sleeping, but it was great.”
On Fending Off Springfield’s Second Half Rally: “You’ve got great players on Springfield College’s team and you’ve got leadership with Sean Martin and Alex Berthiaume, and those guys are season veterans. They’ve been through it, so we knew and didn’t say to our guys that they were going to make a run, but I was figuring they probably would and when Berthiaume got going a little bit, made some shots, it gave them confidence. When they took the lead by a three-pointer, I think things could have really gone south for us, but again I point to our guy’s mental toughness. Our guy’s are really mentally tough, all year and when they needed it to be at the most critical time they were and I thought Aaron Davis with the way he started overtime was phenomenal. Davis scored two baskets with his left hand on drives, which he hasn’t made that shot for a while for us, so it just shows you what type of big game player he is.”
On the play of Ryan Kolb: “He’s a tough kid. He’s literally one of the toughest kids I have ever coached. We also call him, ‘The Rock’ because he can be a rock at a time, but when a kid steps up like that I’m just in awe of how a kid can do that on that big of a stage. It’s just very impressive to me.”
On Springfield’s play down the stretch: “For them to do what they’ve done at the end of the year here is why I think they belong in the NCAA (Division III tournament). They’ve beaten so many good teams, so I have nothing, but respect for how tough and how well coached Springfield is and another bounce or another way, and they would have been hoisting the trophy today.”