Cambridge, Mass. - Senior Mark
Alexander (Providence, R.I.) poured in a game-high, 21
points, including five-of-eight free throws down the stretch, to
help lift fifth-seeded Clark to its fourth New England Women's and
Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament Championship. The
Cougars downed the number three seed, WPI, 74-68, on Sunday
afternoon, to secure an automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA
Division III Tournament.
Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) would score five straight points to break open a two-point game the final three minutes and propel Clark to its third straight win against a higher-seeded opponent in the tournament.
Trailing by five with just over three and a half minutes to go, Ben Etten was able to bring the Engineers within two on a huge three-point play. However, Vayda responded by canning a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession and making a long three-pointer in transition, to put Clark on top, 67-60. The Cougars would make seven-of-ten from the line in the final minute to preserve the win.
The contest was tight throughout, as the teams combined for seven lead changes and four ties. Clark went up by as many as 12, early in the first half, before WPI brought the deficit back to six at the intermission. A 6-1 run midway through the second gave the Engineers their first lead since the opening minutes.
The Cougars would respond by going on an 8-1 spurt, including a pair of trifectas by Jack Minister (Manchester, England) and Slader Lyell (Portsmouth, R.I.), to turn a two-point deficit into a five point lead, which it would not relinquish.
Minister finished with 18 points and a team-high six boards while Vayda pitched in 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Alexander had four caroms and two assists to go along with his 21 points.
Three WPI players finished in double-figures, including Etten and Jeffery Robinson, who each had a team-high 18. Robinson also had a game-best, nine rebounds from his guard position. Kyle Nadeau led the Engineers with eight assists.
Clark knocked down 10 three-pointers, including four-of-six by Minister and two-of-three from Vayda, and the Cougars assisted on 17 of their 23 made field goals. WPI held a 34-30 edge on the glass and shot 50.9 percent from the field but made just 10-of-17 from the charity stripe.
Head Coach Paul Phillips has been on the sideline for all four of Clark's NEWMAC Championships, the last of which came in 2003.
The Cougars will find out their opponent during tomorrow's NCAA Selection show, to be broadcast live at NCAA.com.