Sophomore Stasha Greenalch, of Newington, Conn., delivered the game-winning layup with 7.3 seconds left to lift WPI to a 60-59 victory over Babson College in the 2016 NEWMAC Women’s Basketball Championship game Sunday afternoon at Babson’s Staake Gymnasium in Wellesley.
The Crimson and Gray have also tied the program record with their 24th win of the season—they won their only postseason conference tournament 20 years ago, when they captured the NEW-8 crown.
The Engineers (24-4) will make their first appearance in the NCAA Div. III tournament since 1996, playing host Scranton on Friday in the first round.
After Greenalch’s heroics, the Babson women quickly pushed the ball up the court and got a good look from the right wing from 17 feet out that rimmed out. The rebound pinballed around until time expired, sending the Crimson and Gray into a frenzy.
The fourth quarter alone featured five lead changes and one tie. Trailing 45-44 to begin the final session, WPI rattled off 10 of the period’s first 12 points to take its biggest lead at 54-47. The Beavers clawed back into it and went ahead 57-56 on a traditional 3-pointer by Giovanna Pickering with 2:55 to go.
The lead traded hands two more times on a jumper from the left corner by WPI’s Priscilla Dunphy, of Barrington, R.I., (named Tournament Most Outstanding Player) with 1:53 to go, followed by a Pickering jumper 18 seconds later to give Babson its final lead at 59-58. Both teams missed on their next possession, setting the stage for Greenalch.
Babson senior Linnett Graber converted a WPI turnover into the first bucket of the game on a layup nearly a minute in. Dunphy answered with a layup of her own to even it up early. The Beavers eventually opened up a five-point lead following a Pickering triple at 1:33 and later on a pair of free throws by classmate Taylor Russell with .2 seconds left in the opening 10 minutes.
Trailing 21-16 midway through the second, WPI sophomore Ama Biney, of Worcester, canned a breakaway layup and Dunphy came up with a quick steal to setup a 360-degree layup by senior Yasmeen Luna, of North Providence, R.I., and force a Babson timeout. Biney then put the Engineers ahead 22-21 with 4:10 on the clock. Babson would take the lead back nearly a minute later on a Graber layup. Sophomore Brenna Legacy used a personal 4-2 run to hand Babson the 3-point lead and keep it there until Russell closed out the half with a jumper for the hosts.
After the break WPI went on a 7-2 run, which featured five by Biney, including a traditional 3-point play, to even it up at the 7:46 mark of the third. The local product went on to hit a 3-pointer to give WPI the 36-35 lead with 5:23 remaining in the frame. Neither team would get more than a three-point advantage the rest of the period while Babson led 45-44 heading into the fourth.
Dunphy needed only 16 seconds to give the Crimson and Gray the lead with a jumper and later canned a pair of freebies to make it a seven-point game.
Dunphy and Biney shared team-high honors with 16 points to go with a team-best eight rebounds by the latter. Luna and junior Tess Nogueira of Merrimac, Mass. each had eight points apiece, while senior Jessica Larsen of Poway, Calif. chipped in with six.
Russell led all players with 17 points, followed by Pickering with 15 and Graber with 12. Graber also handed off four assists.