Babson eards NEWMAC title
Beavers remain perfect at 27-0
BABSON PARK, Mass. – Junior forwards Kathleen King and Nicki Wurdeman combined for 44 points, 12 rebounds, and nine steals to earn Co-Most Outstanding Player honors as the top-seeded Babson College Beavers defeated third-seeded Smith College 74-49 in the championship game of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Women’s Basketball Tournament at Babson’s Staake Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Beavers claimed their third consecutive NEWMAC Championship and will head to the NCAA Division III Tournament with a perfect record of 27-0 on the season. The 27 consecutive victories marks the longest win streak in program history, while Sunday’s triumph also marked the team’s 45th consecutive victory against conference opponents.
With the loss, Smith saw its outstanding tournament run come to an end with a record of 17-10. The Pioneers had defeated sixth-seeded Clark, 72-61, in the first round and then stunned second-seeded WPI, 57-50, in the semifinals to reach the championship game for the third time in program history and the first time since 1998.
King and Wurdeman were magnificent in the victory for Babson, which played its fourth game in a row without injured sophomore center Sarah Collins. King shot 8-for-16 from the field and 7-for-11 from the line for a game-high 23 points, while Wurdeman hit 7-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the stripe for 21 points. King also added seven rebounds and six steals, and Wurdeman contributed five boards, two blocks and three steals. Senior Damisi Adewumi finished with 12 points and six boards, senior captain Amanda Grammel tossed in nine points to go with four caroms, and sophomore Allanah Wynn added team-highs of four assists and seven steals. The vaunted Babson defense forced 30 Smith turnovers which led 34 Beaver points.
For the Pioneers, sophomore Amanda Zakoske shot 6-for-11 for 12 points to go with three assists and two steals. First-year Rosa Drummond added 11 points and four caroms while hitting 5-of-6 from the floor, and sophomore Lizzy BelBruno just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Babson surged out to a 15-5 lead seven and a half minutes into the game, thanks to nine early points from King. The Beavers still led by double figures at 21-11 at the midway mark of the opening period, but BelBruno hit two free throws and junior Ashani Petrizzi drained a 3-pointer to pull Smith to within five, 21-16, with 8:41 to go.
The Beavers started to pull away again thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Wurdeman, as the hosts pushed their advantage to 11 at 27-16. Smith would eventually cut its deficit back to six on a pair of occasions, including a 31-25 margin following a jumper by junior Ellie Giles with just under 3 minutes left in the first half.
That would prove to be as close as the Pioneers would get the rest of the way, as the Beavers closed the half with eight unanswered points to take a 39-25 lead into the break. Grammel hit a huge 3-pointer midway through the run, while Wurdeman converted a conventional three-point play with 5 seconds left in the period to cap the outburst.
Babson never allowed the visitors to threaten in the second half, scoring the first eight points of the period to increase its cushion to 22 at 47-25. Zakoske would single-handedly fuel a 6-0 run for Smith later in the session to cut the Pioneers’ deficit to 15 at 58-43 with 10:26 left in the game, but a 15-4 Babson barrage over the next 8 minutes put the game away.
At 27-0, the Beavers will join Thomas More and Denison as the lone unbeaten teams in next week’s NCAA Division III Tournament. It will be Babson’s third consecutive appearance in the national tourney and the sixth in the 37-year history of the program. The Beavers’ last two trips have ended with losses to national powerhouse Amherst – once in the First Round two years ago and again in the National Quarterfinals last season.