Headed into what could be the last few days of its season, Emerson’s men’s basketball team, currently 4-9 in conference play, needs to win its last game to make the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Playoffs.
The Lions, who are currently tied for fifth place with the Clark University Cougars, need to beat Wheaton College, currently 1-12 in NEWMAC competition, in Saturday’s home finale to secure the fifth, and lowest, seed.
If Emerson wins on Saturday, it will have a worse conference record than the last season, which was 6-8. But it will mark the program’s second NEWMAC playoff berth in two seasons.
“We come into [games] knowing there’s a top half of the league and a bottom half of the league,” said head coach Bill Curley. “Our goal is to get into that top half.”
Although the Lions have a 10-13 overall record, they have struggled to score in the second half of several games after securing a lead in first half.
Emerson’s inconsistency between halves was demonstrated in its 81-73 overtime loss to the then 16-3 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Goats. After leading 40-34, the Lions were outscored 35-29 in the fourth quarter, and 12-4 in overtime.
After being outscored in the second half this season 759 to 874, and losing the second half battle in 13 of 23 games, team members said they know they have to make changes heading into their last regular season game and into future competition with NEWMAC teams.
“[Our play in the second half] has always been an issue, but we have to keep fighting,” said junior forward Austin Pinckney. “We try to fire each other up as much possible and commit to performing at a consistent level throughout an entire game.”
Pinckney, who is currently averaging 10.2 points per game and a NEWMAC-best 10.4 rebounds per game, said his team understands what is at stake headed into their regular season finale.
“We need to come out as strong as possible for the rest of the season,” Pinckney said. “We control our own fate and we need to do everything we can do secure our position. We need to get the job done.”
While the Lions will be facing the 4-19 Wheaton Lyons on Saturday, Clark will have to overcome 20-4 WPI on the road to secure a playoff berth.
Saturday’s season finale will feature pre-game ceremonies for seniors Eli-Kell Abrams and Mike Lucas, who will be playing in their last collegiate home game. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.
Deputy sports editor Claire Nobles contributed to this report.