Thursday, April 1, 2010

Turn Back the Clock: MIT Races to First Conference Crown

For our second installment of Turn Back the Clock, we fast forward 108 years and take another glance at one of the biggest moments in the history of the MIT program. Although Sunday, March 1, 2009, is fresh in the minds of the community, the day marked a historic achievement as the Engineers captured their first postseason conference title while securing their first NCAA Tournament berth in school history.

Although MIT had just 10 players on its active roster, the Engineers finished the regular season with a 17-8 record, and finished as the second seed in the NEWMAC Tournament with an 8-4 record in league play. After an intense overtime victory against Coast Guard in the quarterfinals, and dispatching Babson with an 11-point victory in the semis, the Cardinal and Gray was set to face Springfield College in the Championship Final.

The Engineers rode Jimmy Bartolotta’s hot hand in the opening half and led 35-26 entering the second half at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium. Springfield sliced MIT’s advantage to 37-30 following a jumper by Pat Crean with 17:21 left on the clock, although Bartolotta pushed the lead back to nine with a lay-up on Tech’s next possession. Billy Johnson put the lead in double figures for the duration with a three on MIT’s next shot.

MIT slowly expanded its advantage on the Pride during the half, but with Johnson and rookie sharpshooter Jamie Karraker sidelined with four fouls each, the Engineers relied on key contributions from their bench to ignite a 19-3 run. A three by freshman Billy Bender gave MIT its largest lead of the afternoon at 76-48 with 57 seconds left in regulation while the final buzzer sounded with MIT ahead, 76-50. Bartolotta delivered one of his many phenomenal efforts on the season, scoring a game-high 37 points to spark the unprecedented win.

Billy Johnson was the only other MIT player to reach double figures as he scored 13 points, and senior Bradley Gampel turned in another masterful performance at the point with 10 assists and one turnover. Gampel added seven boards and three steals in adding to his single-season Institute record.

Watch the highlights of the game here: 2009 NEWMAC Championship Game.

MIT would go on to face and defeat Rhode Island College five days later in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Championship, while Bartolotta collected a bevy of individual awards including ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America of the Year and D3Hoops National Player of the Year.