With the victory, the Beavers (10-15) advance to face top-seeded WPI in Saturday’s semifinal round in Worcester, while Springfield sees its season come to an end with a record of 10-15.
Bush’s game-high 22 came on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and a 6-of-7 clip from the line. The senior forward scored 16 points in the second half, including two clutch free throws that iced the victory with 27 seconds left. Etten also had a monster game for the Beavers, draining four three-pointers en route to 19 points while leading the team with nine rebounds and five assists. Senior tri-captain Kyle McDonald (Wethersfield, Conn.) chipped in with 12 points, seven boards, and four assists, and senior tri-captain Chris Bradley (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) added 10 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots.
Senior co-captains Jamaal Gibbs (Norwalk, Conn.) and Gregg Daly (Farmington, Conn.) both played well in their final collegiate game for Springfield. Gibbs led the Pride with 20 points while hitting four three-pointers, and Daly scored 18 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, and dished out four assists. Joining them in double-digits was sophomore Pat Crean (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.), who netted 15 points and added six rebounds. Springfield recorded 13 steals in the loss, including three each by Gibbs, sophomore Ryan Blackmon (Stamford, Conn.), and first-year Darryl Smith (Patchogue, N.Y.).
Junior John Strawson (Torrington, Conn.), who had started all 24 previous games Springfield had played this season, was forced to miss tonight's playoff game due to a bout with food poisoning. Strawson averaged 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in what amounted to a solid year at his center position.
Springfield came out firing early, as Gibbs drained back-to-back threes to give the visitors an early 6-0 lead. However, Babson answered with consecutive trifectas from McDonald and Etten to tie the game, and the two teams remained close until the six-minute mark of the opening period. Leading by one at 27-26, the Beavers extended the advantage to nine with eight straight points, including a pair of three-pointers by first-year Matt Zoia (Nashua, N.H.), and later led by as many as 10 after an Etten three made it 38-28 with 3:41 to go. Springfield cut it back to four with a 6-0 spurt, but Etten and McDonald closed the period with two more three-pointers to give Babson a 43-34 advantage heading into the locker room. The Beavers shot a torrid 65.2 percent from the field in the first half, with Etten netting 11 and Bush and Bradley adding eight apiece. Gibbs paced Springfield with 11 in the opening stanza, while Daly tossed in 10.
After the two teams played evenly for the first six minutes of the second half, Etten knocked down another three-pointer to spark a 10-0 run that pushed Babson’s lead to 57-40. The Beavers still held a double-digit lead at the seven-minute mark, when Etten threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk on the break to make it 64-49. However, the Pride answered with a 13-2 barrage over the next two minutes to cut its deficit to just six, 64-58, with five minutes left to play. Blackmon netted five points during the streak, while Gibbs added four more. The squads continued to trade baskets until the final minute, when Crean sank a three to cut Babson’s lead to 72-66 with 50 seconds remaining. After McDonald drew a foul and hit one of two, Gibbs knocked down yet another three to pull his team to within four, 73-69, with 36.8 on the clock. However, Bush drew a foul for the Beavers and hit two huge free throws to make it 75-69 with 27.5 seconds remaining, and Etten added another freebie with 19.2 left for the 76-69 final.