WORCESTER --- The second-seeded WPI men's basketball team will play in the NEWMAC championship game for the third straight season after a 73-58 victory over third seed Babson College in the semifinal round on Friday night at Harrington Auditorium.
WPI (20-6), who reached 20 wins for the 14th time under 19-year head coach Chris Bartley, will host fifth-seeded Coast Guard for the NEWMAC title on Sunday at 1pm after the Bears upset top-seeded Springfield 88-82 in the other semifinal.
Babson (20-6), ranked No. 25 in the country heading into tonight, is hopeful for an NCAA bid when selections are announced at 12:30pm Monday.
A rematch of last year's NEWMAC quarterfinal, won by WPI, Friday's game saw the Engineers lead for the final twenty-six and a half minutes, shooting 48.2% from the floor and 40% from three-point land.
Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA) led the Engineers with 16 points on 7-10 shooting, while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Lou Doherty (Arlington, MA) went 3-4 from long-range and equaled his career-high with 11 points, all in the first half. He and Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) each had a game-high four steals, with McNamara scoring 13 points.
The Beavers got 16 points from Andrew Jaworski (Tolland, CT) and 15 points from Jack Coolahan (Newtown, PA). Jaworski became the 28th player in program history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark for the Beavers. They outrebounded WPI 39-34 behind seven caroms from Coolahan and a game-high ten boards out of Colin Bradanese (Billerica, MA).
A 16-0 first-half run for the Engineers turned a 9-6 WPI deficit into a 22-9 advantage, and the hosts would not trail again. The spurt included eight points from Doherty, including a pair of triples.
Babson responded with a quick 13-2 run of their own to cut the deficit back to two points. Coolahan scored the first eight points of that run, including back-to-back three-pointers of his own.
WPI led 38-32 at the break, and extended the lead back to double-digits behind two straight three-pointers by Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ), who had a game-high five assists in the victory.
Andrew Kirkpatrick (Winnetka, IL) was also in double-figures for Babson, scoring 11 points while handing out three assists.
Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) scored 10 points, all in the second half, and had three dimes of his own for WPI.
WPI kept Babson's long-range shooting in check, holding the Beavers to just 21.1% from three, including 0-9 in the second half. The Beavers also went just 6-12 at the foul line, while WPI made 11 of 15 at the stripe.
The Engineers will look to capitalize on having the home court advantage in Sunday's title game after falling in each of the last two championships, both away from Worcester.