CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Mitchell Kates poured in 24 points en route to tournament Most Valuable Player honors to help No. 3 MIT win the 2012 NEWMAC championship with a 65-60 win against Springfield (Mass.) on Sunday afternoon.
With the victory, the Engineers clinched their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance by winning the conference title for the third time in four years.
Kates shot 10-for-16 from the field while adding six assists in 39 minutes of play. Noel Hollingsworth had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards and Billy Bender stuffed the stat sheet with four points, four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Alex Berthiaume had a game-high 25 points in the loss to go along with five assists. Pat Rossi was also in double figures with 10 and Ryan Coburn and Jordan Rote added eight points apiece.
The score was tied at 55 with 3:13 to go before Kates and Berthiaume exchanged buckets to keep things knotted at 57. After a missed three-pointer from Hollingsworth, Will Tashman picked up his fifth foul, sending Evan Christner to the line for a pair. Christner was only able to convert one-of-two to put give the Pride a 58-57 lead with 1:45 to play.
Kates made a contested, reverse layup to put the Cardinal and Gray back on top and Rote would turn the ball over at the other end. Hollingsworth then knocked down a tough jump-hook on the ensuing MIT possession to extend the lead to three, 61-58, with just 39 seconds to go. The Engineers would pick up a key defensive stop on Springfield’s next trip down the court and iced the game by going four-for-four from the foul line in the final 20 seconds.
Tech led by as many as 14 early in the second half, after consecutive buckets by Tashman and Kates to force a Springfield timeout less than a minute into the period. The Pride would battle back thanks to a 12-3 run midway through the frame. Rossi’s jumper with 5:01 to play gave Springfield its first lead since the 4:23 mark of the first, and the teams would trade baskets over the next few possessions, setting up the dramatic finish.
The visitors led by as many as seven in the first half, before the top-seeded Engineers came storming back, closing out the opening stanza on a 17-4 run that was started by back-to-back steals by Bender, to take a 37-27 advantage into the locker room.
Springfield falls to MIT in the NEWMAC championship game for the second time in four years and sees its terrific season come to a close at 17-10 overall.