WORCESTER, Mass. -- The Babson College men's basketball team came within one play of forcing overtime against one of the nation's top teams on Saturday, but Zach Karalis' (North Andover, MA) rebound and layup with 1.6 seconds to go enabled top seed and host WPI to escape with a dramatic 66-64 victory over the fifth-seeded Beavers in a semifinal matchup of the 2013 NEWMAC Men's Basketball Tournament.
The Engineers, ranked sixth in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 and second in the most recent NCAA Division III Northeast rankings, improve to 24-2 on the season and advance to Sunday's 1pm championship game against the winner of the second semifinal between MIT and Springfield. Babson (14-13), which entered the day with a three-game winning streak, sees its season come to an end in heart-breaking fashion.
WPI's Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) canned a pair of free throws with 1:57 left to tie the game at 61-61. On the ensuing possession, Aaron Davis (Marshfield, MA) forced a backcourt violation which led to a Karalis 3-pointer with 57.3 seconds remaining that equaled the Engineers biggest advantage of the game at 64-61. Babson would answer on the following possession with a 3-pointer from Matt Palazini (Franklin, MA) to even the score with 30.8 seconds left.
WPI passed on a timeout and looked to hold for the last shot. Davis got a look at a 3-pointer from the left wing that rimmed out but Karalis collected the rebound from the right block and put it in off the glass for the game-winner. The Beavers had one final crack but their desperation heave was off-line and the Engineers advanced to their seventh NEWMAC final in the last nine years.
Babson had led by nine points at 56-47 and had a chance to push the advantage into double figures with 8:28 but missed a pair of free throws that ignited a 12-3 run spearheaded by seven Marco Coppola points forging the game's eighth tie.
Coppola registered a team-best 19 points while Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) joined Kolb with 16 points. Karalis tallied five of his 10 points in the final minute.
Babson's John Wickey (Manchester, NH) led all players with 20 points and nine rebounds. The sophomore forward connected on 9-of-13 shots from the field and added three assists. Palazini finished with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and senior captain Peter Foley (Wells, ME) notched 11 points. Junior Kenny Ross (Furlong, PA) handed out a game-high four assists despite being hampered throughout the contest by foul trouble.
Both teams shot the ball well in a first half that featured six lead changes and seven ties. Babson drained 62.1% of its field goal attempts while WPI, who misfired on its first four attempts canned 58.3% of its tries. The visiting Beavers used a Foley layup with 39 seconds to go before the break to take a 41-40 advantage into the locker room at the half.
NOTE: Taken from a WPI press release.