MIT Fights off WPI, 56-48, to Secure Playoff Spot on Senior Day

Seniors Sharon Hao, Rachel Hunt, and Tamara Pena

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Despite a late surge that saw WPI come within four points with 54 seconds left to play, MIT hit four free throws down the stretch to claim a 56-48 victory on Saturday afternoon. With the win, MIT claimed the seventh and final spot in the upcoming NEWMAC Championship tournament, marking its first playoff appearance since 2008. MIT will travel to its last postseason foe, No. 2 Wheaton College, on Wednesday, Feb. 26 for a 7:00 p.m. start.

Sophomore Sabrina Drammis (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) led all scorers with 18 points and added five points for MIT as it improved to 12-13 on the year and 9-11 in conference play. WPI (10-15, 8-12 NEWMAC) was led by senior Siena Mamayek (Melrose, Mass.), who recorded 15 points and five boards in her squad's season finale.

MIT raced out to a 17-6 lead after 9:25 expired as Drammis and junior Mari Kordell (Ijamsville, Md.) combined for 11 points. WPI slowly chipped away at the deficit, narrowing its gap to five on three occasions, the last on a layup by junior Rachel Pineda (Shrewsbury, Mass.) that made the score 27-22 with 3:35 to go. MIT countered with baskets by Drammis and sophomore Maya Ramachandran (Fremont, Calif.) to enter the break with a 31-22 advantage.

The hosts maintained their comfortable margin throughout most of the second stanza as their lead grew to 15 (47-32) with 5:29 remaining. On WPI's ensuing possession, junior Dani Davis (East Granby, Conn.) drained a three-pointer, sparking an 11-0 run during the next three minutes that she capped with jumper. Drammis ended MIT's scoring drought while sophomore Durva Bhandare's (North Brunswick, N.J.) free throw increased the cushion to 50-43 with 1:37 on clock. Pineda kept WPI close with two free throws 10 seconds later but Bhandare drained a pair of shots at the charity stripe.

On its next trip down the court, sophomore Jessica Larsen (San Diego, Calif.) buried a layup for WPI and after snagging a steal, Pineda hit the front-end of a one-and-one to come within four (52-48) with 54 seconds left to play. Following an exchange of possessions, a foul sent Bhandare to the free throw line where she hit her second shot after 11 seconds came off the clock. Pineda put up a three-pointer but her bid was off the mark and was grabbed by MIT senior Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.). While bringing the ball up the court, Drammis was fouled with 19 seconds remaining as her free throw increased the lead to 54-48. On WPI's next charge, Davis's shot from behind the arc failed to connect. Drammis grabbed the loose ball and once again was sent to the charity stripe with 3.7 ticks left, where she drained both shots to secure the victory.

Kordell finished with 15 points, a game-high six assists, and added four rebounds for MIT. Ramachandran recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds as Hunt posted five rebounds and two blocks. Bhandare added seven points and three steals for the home team.

Pineda totaled seven points, four steals, and two assists while Davis had seven points and two assists for WPI. Larsen generated six points, five assists, and two steals as sophomore Haili Welton (Southbury, Conn.) tacked on six points.