Men’s basketball edges out Babson to advance to NEWMAC Finals

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Photo: Sydney Ciardi

Senior guard Nate Martin who scored 12 points against Babson on Jan. 30 was out in the NEWMAC Semifinal.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

Down by three points in the last seconds of regulation play, Emerson sophomore guard Trevor Arico sank a shot from beyond the arc, sending the Lions to overtime. Emerson finished the game 85-77, advancing to the conference finals.

The men’s basketball team finished third in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference with a record of 10-4 which placed them in the semifinal game against the second-seeded Babson College.

Historically, this matchup hasn’t been kind to the Lions as Babson won both games— an 80-73 finish and an 87-79 overtime finish— during the regular season.  Arico said Emerson was motivated to return the favor.

“It’s very hard to beat a team three times in one season, especially when they’re very competitive each game so I think the big message going in is, ‘it’s our turn now,’” he said in a post-game interview.

Several key players for the Lions weren’t available due to injury including senior guard Nate Martin and junior guard Max Davis, so other players had to fill the gaps.

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The Beavers sank a three to open up the scoring for the day, but senior guard Zach Waterhouse responded with seven points to capture the Lions’ first lead of the game. The lead changed five more times before Babson scored the third three-pointer in seven minutes to go up top 16-14. 

The Lions stayed close, but Babson found separation in the last seven minutes of the first half, scoring seven unanswered points. Emerson senior center Jarred Houston scored six in the dying minutes of the first half, but Babson led 36-30 heading into the break.

Going into the locker room, Waterhouse and Houston led the team in scoring with 13 points each, with junior guard James Beckwith holding the remaining four. 

Babson’s defense improved in the second half, resulting in three steals and transition buckets. A couple of layups and two three-pointers later, the Beavers were up by 16 only five minutes into the second half. Just when the game started to look like it was slipping away, the Lions’ 1,000 point club members, Waterhouse and Houston, closed the gap to 6. 

The Beavers sank a mid-range jump shot which was answered by a three from Emerson point guard Vince Conn. The deficit eventually closed to one, and two free throws by Arico put the Lions ahead for the first time in 25 minutes. It didn’t last long, as the Beavers scored a layup 12 seconds later. Babson attempted to break away, but foul trouble put Emerson on the free-throw line and kept Emerson in the game. 

The Lions called a timeout with three minutes left and Babson leading 67-60. Beckwith was fouled and sank another two free throws for the Lions after the break, and  Arico made his first three-pointer of the game to put the Lions up/down 71-67. 

With 38 seconds left in the game, the Lions were down by four. Houston stepped to the free-throw line and made one of two shots, opening the door for Babson to extend the lead. 

After several trips to the line from both teams, it was 75-70 Babson. In less than 20 seconds, senior guard Chad DiCenzo scored a layup, Babson turned the ball over, and Waterhouse passed to Arico who drained a three-pointer from the corner, tying the game and sending the team to five-minute overtime. 

Arico scored 10 points in the second half, but his night wasn’t done yet. Overtime started slowly for both teams, but with 1:23 remaining the ball found the hot hands of Arico in the corner. He faked his shot, shifting into open space and putting the Lions on top with a jump shot. Waterhouse scored a layup, securing the win for the Lions as Babson fouled Emerson until the clock eventually ran out. 

The Lions got their revenge for the overtime loss in the regular season, winning in Babson territory 85-77, and knocking the Beavers out of the playoffs. 

Waterhouse led the Lions scoring 28 points over 45 minutes played while Houston was right behind him with 25 points and 10 rebounds. The surprise came from Arico, who scored 14 points, tying his career high. He said the constant motivation he received throughout the season helped him reach this level. 

“All credit to my teammates,” he said. “Throughout the year, whether we were at full strength, or if I wasn’t playing a ton of minutes, they just kept telling me to grind. They kept saying how much confidence they had in me and I think going into that game, with them increasing all year and grinding all year and it was fortunate that I was able to turn out right tonight.” 

Arico attributed his multiple clutch plays to the energy and adrenaline of postseason play. 

“I always love the playoffs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happened all season, you’re just looking to win the game. That’s kind of the mindset I have. It’s a battle, nobody cares, just win.

The Emerson men’s basketball team returns to the NEWMAC finals against the first seed Worcester Polytechnic Institute — the team they beat in 2019 to secure their first NEWMAC Championship title — at WPI Saturday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.