Top-Seeded Babson Rallies Past Springfield, 59-52, in NEWMAC Semifinals

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BABSON PARK, Mass.—Junior Giovanna Pickering (Hull, Mass.) scored 13 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter as top-seeded Babson College rallied for a 59-52 victory over fifth-seeded Springfield College in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament semifinal on Saturday evening at Staake Gymnasium.

With its 13th straight victory, Babson (21-5) advances to the conference tournament championship game for the seventh time in the last eight years, while Springfield falls to 17-10 on the year.

Pickering finished 8-of-16 from the floor and added five rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Beavers. Junior Taylor Russell (Braintree, Mass.) scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while senior Linnett Graber (Roseland, N.J.) and sophomore Brenna LeGacy (Attleboro, Mass.) each added nine points. Graber also finished with seven boards and a game-high four steals in the win.

Senior Heather Lewis (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) scored 12 points to pace three Pride players in double figures. Juniors Danielle Racette (North Adams, Mass.) and Molly McCausland (Millbury, Mass.) both added 10 points, while senior Emily Gins (Fort Myers, Fla.) finished with nine points and nine boards.

Springfield shot 50 percent in the opening quarter, getting six points from Lewis and five from Racette to build a 19-14 lead after 10 minutes. McCausland drilled a three-pointer to make it 22-14 a little less than a minute and a half into the second quarter, and Lewis gave the Pride its biggest lead of the game at 25-16 on a jumper with 7:18 to go be in the stanza.

The Green and White were still down eight midway through the period, but held Springfield scoreless over the final 4:58 of the half and got back-to-back hoops from senior Kristen Ferola(Amherst, Mass.) and Pickering to pull within 29-26 at the break.

The teams combined for just seven field goals in a third quarter that saw Babson twice get within one only to have the Pride use a jumper from King and two free throws from sophomore Heather King (Lebanon, N.H.) to extend its lead back to 39-34 going to the fourth. Springfield led 42-34 lead after a free throw by first-year Gracie Restituyo (Jersey City, N.J.) with 8:09 to go in the contest, but the Beavers countered with a 10-0 run, getting six straight points from Pickering to pull within two at the 6:03 mark, and consecutive baskets from LeGacy and senior Marissa Cicchetti (Mansfield, Mass.) to take their first lead since the early moments of the game at 44-42 with 4:28 remaining.

The teams traded the lead three times over the next two minutes before Pickering put the Green and White ahead for good with 3:01 to play. Russell scored inside off a feed from Ferola to make it 52-49 with 1:52 left, and Pickering converted a layup after Lewis made -1-of-2 at the line to extended the Babson advantage to 54-50 with 1:30 remaining. Cicchetti knocked down a free threw to make it a five-point game with 29 seconds to play and Pickering sealed the win with a steal and a layup on the ensuing possession.

The Beavers shot 41.1 percent (23-of-56) from the field, scored 19 points off of turnovers and finished with a 36-20 edge in paint scoring.

The Pride shot 37.5 percent (21-of-56) and outrebounded the Green and White 35-34.

Babson will host either second-seeded WPI or third-seeded Coast Guard in Sunday's championship game at 3 p.m.

• The Beavers are now 25-11 all-time against Springfield, including a 5-2 mark in the postseason.
• Babson extended its home-winning streak to 10, is 26-4 at Staake Gymnasium going back to December 7, 2013, and has won 14 consecutive postseason games at home going back to 2003.
• The Beavers have held 23 of their 26 opponents below 40 percent shooting on the year.
• The win was the first this season for Babson when trailing after the third quarter.