Babson College brought a lot of things to Salem last weekend in the NCAA Division III basketball Final Four.
The one that will be remembered most is their resilience.
Riding a game-high 23 points from senior Joey Flannery that included 9-of-10 from the free throw line, and a crucial block of a layup with 1.5 seconds left from Flannery, Babson held on to edge Augustana 79-78 Saturday evening at the Salem Civic Center to capture the Division III championship.
It all came down to the last possession where Augustana’s leading scorer, Nolan Edel, got the ball in his hands for a potential game-winning driving layup. As Ebel went to the right side and released near the side of the backboard, Flannery skied above the glass and cleanly blocked the shot.
The buzzer sounded and Babson had it’s first national championship as the requisite Salem Civic Center confetti fell to the hardwood amid a wild celebration by the Beavers.
Babson, from Babson Park, Massachusetts, in the suburbs just west of Boston, used a strong surge in the first half that saw the Beavers head to the locker room up by 10, 41-31. Augustana spent the second half playing catch up, nearly completing the dramatic feat before Flannery’s block. Babson finished the season at 31-2.
The Beavers had punched their ticket to the final on Friday night, coming back from a 25-point deficit just over the midway point of the first half to knock off previously undefeated Whitman 91-85.
Seemingly set to advance to within one game of a perfect season, Whitman could only watch as Babson closed the half on a 27-6 run to close to within 51-47 at the break.
The Beavers took their first lead just past the midway point of the second half and were in control as Whitman got no closer that 3 points the rest of the way. Flannery was the scoring leader for Babson, netting 24 points that included a clinching score with 10 seconds remaining. Flannery had plenty of help in the comeback, with Nick Comenale bagging 22 points ands Isaiah Nelsen adding 20 for the Beavers.
Augustana topped Williams 90-79 in Friday’s other semifinal.