Engineers progress to the Liberty League Tournament Championship Game
With a victory against the Union Dutchmen in the Liberty League Semifinals, the Engineers advance to the championship game against Ithaca.
Possession and points ebbed and flowed at the beginning of the game, resulting in an even matchup. Three minutes in, the fan section for Union was boisterous as the Dutchmen took a 7‒2 lead.
Union’s control of the game was evident. With 16:57 left to play in the first half, Union’s Rhona Eseyade confidently blocked a shot from Mason Memmelaar ’22, sending it into the Union bench. The Engineers inbounded the ball with 11 seconds left on the shot clock, but Union’s defense did not allow Rensselaer to get a shot off, causing possession to turn over due to the shot clock violation.
The Engineers began to get their footing. With 15:19 left to play in the half, Dom Black ’22 intercepted a pass from Mike Concannon at the defensive three-point arc and scored on the subsequent fast break, bringing Union’s lead down to one point at 7‒6. On the Dutchmen’s next possession, Memmelaar absorbed contact from Union guard Brian Noone to draw the charging call. With 14:39 left in the half, Patrick Mahoney ’21, in the post, stepped past Union’s Kevin Jefferson and converted the layup to give RPI the lead at 8‒7. The Dutchmen then came back up the court, but Jonny Angbazo ’23 intercepted a pass in the defensive end and finished his fast break off with a dunk to extend the Engineers’ lead to three. RPI’s stellar defense was dominating rebounds in the defensive end and pickpocketed the Dutchmen several times. Black even blocked a rebound from Jefferson with 7:15 remaining in the period.
RPI may have been leading in terms of the scoreline, but Union’s presence was much greater. The Union bench and fan section were so lively that one would have thought the game was being played in Schenectady. With 4:50 left to play in the half, Concannon converted an and-one to put the Dutchmen up 25‒24. The Engineers stayed strong and regained their lead. At the end of the half, RPI lead 33‒32 with the lead point scorers being a tie between Mahoney and Memmelaar for the Engineers and Jefferson for the Dutchmen, all at nine.
The second half began the same way as the first, both teams appearing evenly matched. Jefferson was on fire for Union, draining threes to give Union the lead at 44‒43 with 14:33 left to play. The Engineers came back up the court and Angbazo sank a corner three to put the Engineers up 46‒44. With 12:41 left to play, Will Rubin ’23 drove the lane and drew a blocking foul on Noone. Rubin converted both free throws, putting the Engineers up 50‒46. About 50 seconds later, Angbazo shot another three to give RPI a 53‒48 lead. After another 50 seconds, Jefferson shot from within the paint but Angbazo blocked it to preserve a 55‒48 lead. With 10:42 left to play, the Engineers led 57‒48 and the crowd was revitalized.
RPI’s offense refused to slow down. After a three from Mahoney and a fast break score for Black, the Engineers led 67‒49. The game ended in a 78‒58 win for the Engineers, with Mahoney leading RPI’s point totals at 19 and Jefferson leading Union’s with 15.
The Engineers will host the Bombers in the Liberty League Tournament Championship Game on Sunday, March 1, at 2 pm at the ECAV Arena.