In its 100-year-plus history, the MIT men's basketball team has never made the NCAA Division III basketball tournament -- until now.
With a 76-50 victory over Springfield College in the 2009 NEWMAC Tournament Championship final on Sunday, the Engineers continued their historic season by earning an entry into the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. The victory also resulted in MIT's second 20-win season in four years.
MIT will now travel to Rhode Island College on Friday, March 6, to play at RIC's Murray Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
"It's nice to be part of history," said head coach Larry Anderson. "For me, it's great to see it pay off for guys that have worked so hard over the years. No question it was a total team effort, but the credit goes to our senior tri-captains" Jimmy Bartolotta, Billy Johnson and Bradley Gampel.
The trio of seniors led the way for MIT, with Bartolotta scoring a game-high 37 points, Johnson notching 13 points, and Gampel putting up 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
"It feels great to finally make the [NCAA] tournament, which has been a culmination of a lot of hard work by the players and coaches," Bartolotta said. "Winning this championship is a great achievement. So much of our season has been about the stuff that doesn't appear in the box scores, and I can't underestimate the camaraderie and closeness of the team. We've had some ups and downs this year, but at all points of the season everyone was so supportive and excited to see the team perform well above the individual."
The Engineers shot 47 percent from the floor in the championship and benefited from a significant advantage from beyond the arc, where they finished 10-of-25.
Trailing 35-26 entering the second half, Springfield sliced the MIT advantage to 37-30 following a jumper by Pat Crean with 17:21 to go. Bartolotta pushed the lead back to nine with a layup on MIT's next possession, while Johnson put the lead in double figures for the duration with a three on MIT's next shot.
MIT slowly expanded the advantage during the half, but with Johnson and rookie sharpshooter Jamie Karraker sidelined with four fouls each, the Engineers received key contributions from the 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.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 4, 2009 (download PDF).