Men’s basketball falls to Babson in NEWMAC semifinals


Arthur Mansavage

Graduate center Jarred Houston throws some interference in front of a Babson Beaver. Thursday’s match-up against the Beavers was Houston’s last as a Lion.

By Jordan Pagkalinawan, Managing Editor

Playing at home in front of a packed house—some students were literally turned away at the doors—a spirited effort from the Emerson men’s basketball team wasn’t enough to overcome the Babson Beavers on Thursday evening, as the team fell in the NEWMAC championship semifinals by a scoreline of 69-64.

The Lions, who finished the regular season with a college-record 11 conference wins, entered the NEWMAC tournament as the No. 2 seed. They took the Bobbi Brown & Steven Plofker Gym floor in their matchup against the No. 3 seed, the Babson Beavers, with high hopes for their first playoff win since 2022, which was also against Babson.

The Lions won the opening tip, but the Beavers struck first, starting the game with an 8-0 run. Emerson got on the board with a four-point-play from graduate student guard Nate Martin with 16:35 remaining in the first half. Still falling behind, the Lions were able to close the gap with buckets from Martin and first-year guard Brendan McNamara, trailing 12-8 with 14 minutes remaining. A layup from senior guard Max Davis brought the deficit to two at the 12:18 mark, and some tough Lions defense forced a shot clock violation shortly after.

Still, Emerson was unable to capitalize on opportunities to take the lead, staying within two for most of the first half. Babson continued to pile on the points, leading 27-20 after a triple at the four-minute mark. Despite the best efforts of Martin and graduate student center Jarred Houston, who scored nine and eight points in the half, respectively, the ball would simply not fall in the basket for the Lions, whose 30 percent shooting from the floor led to a 31-23 deficit at the break.

Babson stayed strong in the second half, and the Beavers’ two-way play kept Emerson at a 41-27 disadvantage with 14 minutes to play. The Lions continued to do the little things—a point of emphasis throughout the season—that allowed them to remain in the game. Junior guard Trevor Arico drew a charge, then found Houston for a layup at the 12:30 mark. Nevertheless, Babson held their largest lead of the night, 46-29, with 11:45 remaining

Graduate student guard Sean Coman responded with a triple, and eventually sank a pair of free throws to make it a ten-point game, 48-38, with 9:38 to go. However, Babson would not let up as they found their way to the rim on nearly every possession. Arico’s reverse layup at the six-minute mark finally brought Emerson within single digits, 52-43, forcing Babson to call a timeout. From then on, it was a continuous game of catchup for the Lions.

Davis buried a triple that cut the lead to six, 57-51, with 2:19 remaining. The Lions consistently put Babson at the line from that point forward. The Beavers nailed four free-throws within the next minute, but the Lions would not go down without a fight.

Martin burst out of the backcourt for a layup with 42 seconds remaining as he was fouled. His successful single free-throw brought the Lions to a 61-56 deficit. The Beavers went one-for-two from the line on their next trip, but the Lions were unable to capitalize on their end. Arico buried a three that gave the Lions some life, though Emerson was still down 64-59 with 27 seconds left. Free throws would remain the story of the game for Babson, who converted five of their next eight despite an energized student section. Emerson ended the scoring with a half-court heave from senior guard James Beckwith, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Beavers, who took the semifinal game 69-64.

Martin and Houston totalled 19 points each for the Lions. Martin added six rebounds and three assists, while Houston pulled down 18 rebounds and had two blocks and one assist. As a team, Emerson only made 38 percent of their shot attempts but buried five of 11 three-pointers, good for 45 percent.

Despite the difficult ending, Head Coach Bill Curley said that the Lions should be proud of a successful season—one with more in-conference wins than any other season in program history.

“Jarred and Nate, they raised the whole program and got the other guys to follow along,” he said. “The rest of the seniors came in every day and worked their tails off. They set the bar for what it takes to be an athlete here at Emerson and what it takes to be a winning team.”

Curley also touched on the impact of Coman, who spent this past season at Emerson following an undergraduate career at Hendrix College.

“[Sean] came in and was a tremendous leader for one year,” he added.

Regarding the loss, Curley said there was nothing discouraging about the team’s performance.

“They got beat tonight by a very good team,” he said. “They didn’t give it away. [Babson] came in and hit us in the mouth. Our guys didn’t quit; They battled back and made it a game.”

Curley also discussed the sacrifices the players made throughout the year.

“They didn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving break, they didn’t get to go home for Christmas break really,” he said. “These guys are committed to building a winning program, and it’s tough when you lose [after having] high expectations. That’s why it hurts so much.”

Houston, whose storied Emerson career ends with 1636 points and 1158 rebounds, reflected on his five years as a Lion.

“All the practice stuff [and] all the little stuff [sticks out the most],” he said. “Winning the championship on this floor was really special. Even stuff like tonight I’ll look back fondly on. It was a great crowd, we had a lot of great people here. We grew the program a lot from when I came in, so I’m really proud of that.”

Curley said that this group of Lions has built a strong foundation for next season.

“These guys have really put the time in,” he said. “They played against a great group of seniors, and when you do that every day, you’re going to get better. They have that winning taste. We’re going to be fine, I really like what we have. We’d love to get some of these seniors that have an extra year of eligibility back, and we’ll be right there in the mix.”

Finally, Houston had a message for Emerson fans who have supported the team throughout the season: “We’re a basketball school.”

“We’re going to keep going, the program’s going to keep growing,” Houston added. “Coach Curley and [assistant coach Jack] Barrett have done a great job. We accomplished a lot of things. In general, Emerson sports are on the rise and it’s been great to be a part of [it].”