Emerson’s Lions were rightfully excited after advancing to the NEWMAC championship for the first-time ever.
Four Emerson’s men’s basketball starters had double-digit scoring nights as the Lions defeated Springfield, 80-69, in a NEWMAC semifinal match held at the Brown & Plofker Gym on Thursday night.
Seeded second, Emerson (15-11, 9-5 NEWMAC) knocked off the third seed, and will now face the fifth-seed Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) on Saturday in Emerson’s gym at 1 pm.
Senior Geoffrey Gray (Newton, Mass.) led the way with a double-double, notching 24 points on 8-of-22 shooting, while grabbing 12 boards and dishing out three assists.
It was a tight contest as the Lions led by only two, 36-34, at halftime
“We said, ‘Look guys, we’re missing a lot of easy ones, but we’ve got to continue going to the basket,’” said Emerson head coach Bill Curley to the Berkeley Beacon. “Defensively we were doing what we want, but offensively we missed a lot of layups. I said, ‘We’re going to hit these shots in the second half, so just hang in there and keep going.’”
The game continued to be tight during the second half, but Emerson pulled away with 10 straights points, giving them their biggest lead 79-65.
Before this win Emerson (15-11, 9-5 NEWMAC) had never hosted and won a NEWMAC semifinal game. Hopefully, Emerson will next be able to say they hosted and won a NEWMAC championship game.
This is the first time Emerson will play in the NEWMAC championship since joining the conference in 2013 and will face WPI, who upset first-seeded MIT, 55-53, on Thursday night.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Gray led the all scorers with 24 points and shot a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line.
• Following Gray was junior Jack O’Connor (Newport, R.I.), who notched 23 points shooting 4-of-4 beyond the arc along with nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.
• Freshman Zach Waterhouse (Hampton, N.H.) connected for 17 points on 6-of-14 and classmate Jarred Houston (Norwood, Mass.) rounded out the scoring leaders with 10 points and 10 boards.
• Springfield saw three players boast double figures, anchored by Jake Ross with 20 points, eight boards, six assists and two steals.
• Cam Earle contributed 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-12 from the three-point arc and Heath Post had 13 points, eight rebounds and one assist.
• Emerson finished the night shooting 46.0% from the floor with an 88.2% free-throw percentage, out rebounded the Pride (39-32) and put up 34 points in the paint.
• Springfield shot 38.3% from the hardwood with a 44.4% three-point percentage and connected for 84.6% at the charity stripe.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Springfield banged out three triples in the opening three and a half minutes of the first half from Ross and Earle to push the Pride ahead by seven (11-4) at the 16:32 mark.
• Starting at 16:18 on Waterhouse’s dunk, Emerson answered with a 9-0 spurt to give the hosts its first advantage at 13-11, capped off on a three-pointer from O’Connor.
• The Lions knotted the game 20 apiece at 8:39 after freshman Nate Martin (Great Falls, Va.) turned a Springfield turnover into two points and maintained a steady tie two times with the Pride over the next two minutes.
• Houston dunked at 4:59 to start off a 9-4 run that saw Waterhouse ring off five points and put the Lions in front by four (34-30) with 1:56 on the clock.
• Early canned the equalizing triple to put the score at 34-all at 1:02 before Gray put up the go-ahead layup with six ticks remaining as Emerson went into the break with the 36-34 edge.
• A pair of buckets from Gray extend Emerson’s lead up to six, its largest of the game at the time, at the 16:36 mark of the second half.
• The hosts maintained its lead of three until Jake Jacobsen drained a triple from the corner to even the score at 46 apiece.
• After Springfield tied up the score, Gray connected for a three-point basket to ignite an 15-6 run that once again bumped Emerson ahead by nine (59-53) at 9:12.
• Earle used two consecutive threes to pull Springfield back within three (64-61) as O’Connor singlehandedly propelled Emerson back up by eight with the next five Lions points (69-61).
• The Pride narrowed the deficit down to four (69-64) on Ross’ layup before the Lions went on a 10-0 tear that put the host’s advantage into double figures (79-65) and sealed the 80-69 win at free throw line.
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