Boston, MA – Junior big man Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA) was scorching hot from the field, scoring a career-high 26 points as the WPI men's basketball team led Eastern Nazarene wire-to-wire in an 83-69 victory in the semifinals of the Paula Titus Memorial Tournament on Friday night at UMass-Boston.
Stephenson shot 10-for-13 overall, but carried the load for the Engineers (4-1) in the second half, hitting all six of his field goal attempts and going 6-of-7 from the line to score 18 points after the break and prevent a Lions (1-4) comeback.
WPI will face UMass-Boston in the tournament final at 4 p.m. Friday. Eastern Nazarene will be Framingham State in the consolation contest at 2pm.
The Engineers started the game on a 7-0 run, capped by 3-pointer by Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA). The junior guard totaled 17 points, while also contributing in four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Stephenson scored on back-to-back possessions to push the lead to 27-13 with 7:13 to go in the first half, but Eastern Nazarene scored nine straight points, all on 3s by Josh Rice (Hanson, MA), to cut it to a two-possession game 1:56 later.
WPI quickly stole back the momentum, scoring 16 points from five different players in the final 4:55 of the half to open up a 43-29 led at the intermission.
Rice scored 18 of his team-high 24 points in the first half, but the Engineers defense held him to just 1-of-5 shooting in the final 20 minutes.
Eastern Nazarene cut the deficit to single digits just once in the second half, drawing it back to 63-54 with 10:25 remaining after an 8-2 spurt.
However, Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) hit a jumper just 14 seconds later, followed by a pair of free throws by Stephenson the next trip down.
Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA) went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc as he chipped in 11 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA) matched him with seven boards, including four on the offensive glass, while Logan O'Donnell (Fishkill, NY) reeled in six rebounds in just nine minutes.
The Engineers had a big advantage inside, outrebounding Eastern Nazarene, 38-23, while scoring 40 points in the point to the Lions' 18.