Northeastern Baseball’s Top 10 Plays of 2021

By Milton Posner

No point in a protracted intro here. This team was good. They did fun stuff on the field. Here’s a top 10 list of that stuff.

#10: Fairly Spectacular

The narrative on first baseman Ian Fair solidified somewhat early this season, and it relayed that the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, a player who hit an .357 in his last full college season, was underperforming. And yes, he did finish the year with a .264 average that was more solid than spectacular.

But his defense was smooth and reliable all season, as he presented his fellow infielders with a wide, rangy target on their throws across the diamond. But it was the first play in this countdown that led Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine to laud Fair as the best defensive first baseman in the country.

Besides the reflexes and dexterity, consider the stakes here. Fair turned an RBI single into an inning-ending double play in a championship game that the Huskies eventually won by a single run. As good a play as any to kick off our list.

#9: Tumble Dry Low

As difficult as this catch is, it’s harder than it looks.

For one, the sun is blazing in Scott Holzwasser’s eyes. The ball is also hit directly behind him, and he’s tracking it not with full strides, but with a series of lightning-quick side steps. And then he lands perfectly on his feet, because why not make it a suave catch while you’re at it.

#8: The Short Hop and the Cannon

When the ball landed in fair territory down the left-field line, Nick Marrero had every reason to believe that second base was his.

Jeff Costello realized too late that the ball was out of reach, a realization usually accompanied by a fielder overrunning or deflecting the ball and giving the hitter an extra base. But instead Costello barehands the ball on the dead run, throws on the brakes, and fires a missile into second base to leave Marrero wondering where things went wrong.

#7: Range Factor

This was somehow only the third most impressive play Ben Malgeri made that week. But damn did it look good.

Some centerfielders literally can’t make this play. You need elite speed just to give yourself a chance. But Malgeri led the team in stolen bases for a reason, and he tracks this one as it tails away from him, extends as far as he can, and snags the ball as he lands on the warning track. A major momentum play in a playoff game.

Not that it was the only thrilling moment he produced that day.

#6: “Benny Bright Lights”

To truly appreciate this play, you have to understand just how unlikely it was.

It was the final game of the CAA Tournament. On the mound for UNCW was Landen Roupp, who had spent the weekend showing the hometown fans why he deserved his CAA Pitcher of the Year award. After shutting out the Elon Phoenix in a 12-strikeout complete game three days prior, he’d entered the game in the sixth inning and completely halted the red-hot Husky offense.

The Huskies were down 10–9 in the bottom of the ninth, and based on how the regular season went, Malgeri wasn’t a prime candidate to tie things with one swing. He’d hit just two home runs in 41 regular-season games, and when he fell behind 0-2 it looked like he’d be Roupp’s sixth consecutive strikeout victim.

But Ben Malgeri was in the midst of a perfectly timed power surge, and he delivered the biggest hit of the season to that point.

The media ballots for tournament MVP were cast before Malgeri stepped to the plate in the ninth. But given that this was his fifth home run in five tournament games, he won the award anyway. I can’t imagine the vote was particularly close.

#5: Long-Range Artillery

Just in case you missed him since the end of the last sentence, here’s Ben Malgeri again.

I’d wager that it was a 250-foot throw, and it took every bit of strength and momentum Malgeri could muster to make it there on the fly. His body even went along for the ride. And the throw was right on the money.

The Huskies wound up stranding the tying run in the top of the ninth, so Malgeri’s laser didn’t change the outcome. But there was no moment in the Huskies’ season that was more worthy of a commissioned painting.

Well, maybe one.

4: The Superman Dive

This play doesn’t need to be analyzed. It doesn’t need to be hyped, explained, or contextualized. It merely needs to be watched as often as possible.

This was the second time Holzwasser landed atop SportsCenter’s nightly top 10, and we’ll get to the other one in a minute. But it’s undoubtedly the best defensive play of the season for a team that made a bunch of them.

3: The Human Power Plant

Jared Dupere spent the season trying to unstitch baseballs with blunt force. His Northeastern-record 21 home runs indicate as much, as does the fact that eight of those dingers measured 430 feet or more. He smacked the ball clean out of Friedman Diamond several times, and while his longest measured a whopping 482 feet, that isn’t the one that makes this list.

No, that would be his 479-foot blast against Merrimack on April 20, which hit the top of the press box in right-center field and caromed over to the houses across the street.

I’ve seen flamboyant bat flips before. But I have never seen a player undoing his batting gloves as he eases into his home run trot. Subtle, and savage.

2: The Magician

Speaking of something I’ve never quite seen on a baseball diamond:

Just . . . just . . . what?

MLB fans might recall nifty, creative, and athletic slides from wizards like Javier Báez and Josh Harrison, but I’ve watched those compilations too, and I don’t recall seeing something quite like this. If I’m missing something please let me know, but for now I’m comfortable calling this a one-of-a-kind play.

Plays like that are an atypical kind of impressive. You can watch astounded as Jared Dupere makes Friedman Diamond look like a little-league field, but you also intuitively understand that he’s practiced hitting balls far. In fact, he’s practiced it a lot.

But while Holzwasser has surely practiced sliding since he was a kid, it’s hard to imagine he’s practiced that specific slide much. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong, but that’s my hunch. Which means that this play is based not just on athleticism and skill, but on innate cleverness and instinct.

1: Game Over

The Huskies had spent sixteen years in the Colonial Athletic Association without a title. Even in 2018, when they were good enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the UNCW Seahawks thwarted them in the CAA final. At last, revenge was theirs.

“I can barely talk,” Viera said after the game, a smile as wide as a canyon stretched across his face. “I feel like I’m in a dream.”

Huskies Win First-Ever CAA Championship as Viera Walks It Off

Story by Milton Posner

Photos by Sadie Parker

WILMINGTON, NC — As the Northeastern Huskies celebrated on Brooks Field, as they doused their coach with ice water and raised their first-ever CAA Tournament trophy toward a cloudy North Carolina sky, the only question to ask was how.

Not “how did they win it”; this was, after all, a team that won 20 games in a row and nearly ran the table in conference play, a team with four quality starters and a treasure trove of .300 hitters. No, the question was how Jared Dupere maintained his preposterous slugging streak, golfing a first-inning homer to open the scoring and become Northeastern’s single-season home run king.

It was how Ian Fair and Ben Malgeri made ridiculous diving catches to keep runs off the board.

It was how Malgeri, who hit just two home runs in the regular season, smacked his fifth of the tournament to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth — off CAA Pitcher of the Year Landen Roupp, no less.

And it was how freshman Max Viera followed suit in the top of the tenth, launching a walk-off home run against a pitcher who looked entirely unhittable ten minutes prior.

It was all unbelievable. But as they had all week, and as they had all season, the Huskies made everyone believe. They bested the UNC Wilmington Seahawks 11–10 in ten innings to secure their first conference championship since joining the CAA in 2006. They will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around the game for a long time,” Northeastern head coach Mike Glavine said. “This is as great a moment as I’ve ever had. You get to share it with so many people. This is right at the top.”

Almost by definition, extra-inning championship games have plenty of back-and-forth drama. But the drama of Sunday afternoon’s game exceeded all expectations and rationality, even for fans who watched the same two teams battle it out in extra innings the day before.

“I’ll have to watch this game 10 times,” Glavine said. “There are so many overlooked things that happened.”

After Dupere’s first-inning two-run jack, neither team scored in the second inning. It was the only inning for which that was true.

The third inning took the affair from first to fifth gear, as a UNCW walk and single, plus a Northeastern scoring error, combined to plate a run and chase Husky starter Cam Schlittler from the game. The freshman had thrown 101 pitches three days before, and was handed the ball because the Huskies ran out of viable starters.

Friday starter Kyle Murphy replaced Schlittler, and the Seahawks slapped him around for the second time in three days. After allowing one of his inherited runners to score in the third, Murphy allowed consecutive RBI extra-base hits in the fourth and exited after just 22 pitches. The second such hit was a homer off the bat of UNCW’s All-CAA First Team right fielder Brooks Baldwin.

But the Huskies still led after all of this because they posted the most productive inning of the afternoon in their half of the third. They turned three hits and two errors into four runs, chasing multiple Seahawk pitchers from the game in the process. This would be a common theme in a winner-take-all game between two teams without rested starters; Northeastern used eight pitchers to get through ten innings, while UNCW used six.

The teams traded runs in the fifth, with Northeastern’s coming on Ben Malgeri’s third home run within 24 hours. The Huskies gained a run in the sixth, responding to Baldwin’s second dinger with two runs of their own after loading the bases with one out.

But the Seahawks made their move in the seventh and eighth innings, in large part behind the efforts of speedy center fielder Noah Bridges. In the seventh, Bridges singled, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on a sacrifice fly. In the eighth, he singled home Cole Weiss and Matt Suggs to give UNCW a 10–9 lead, their first of the day.

While all of this was happening, the Northeastern offense was fizzling. In the sixth, UNCW had brought Roupp, their ace starter and the CAA Pitcher of the Year, out of the pen on two days’ rest, and it was immediately clear why they did. Here’s the play-by-play:

  • L. Roupp to p for G. Herring
  • Fair struck out swinging.
  • Beaudet walked.
  • Smith grounded out to p, SAC.
  • Costello struck out swinging.
  • Viera struck out swinging.
  • Dupere struck out swinging.
  • Holzwasser struck out swinging.
  • Crossen struck out swinging.

“Roupp had us in a spin cycle out there,” Glavine said. “We just couldn’t stop it, and he sped us up again. I saw it happen, we all saw it happen and there was nothing we could do about it.”

So when Malgeri went down 0-2 to Roupp to lead off the ninth, he seemed destined to be another strikeout victim. But if it wasn’t apparent before, Malgeri was playing on another level.

“He’s tournament MVP for a reason. He just was unbelievable,” Glavine said. “In the biggest moment of the game, the biggest moment of the year, he did it.”

“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and slow the game down. I was just playing the same game I always do, since I was a little kid, and it just happened,” Malgeri said. “I didn’t think it was out at first. I was just trying to get to second and get a run across.”

“It’s gotta be the top,” he added when asked where the moment ranked in his baseball life. “I can’t think of a better moment, honestly, not even close.”

It would have been understandable if the home run had rattled Roupp, but he seemed to barely realize that it even happened. He straddled the rubber, resumed his breakneck pace, and struck out the next three hitters to send the game to the tenth.

Brian Rodriguez was waiting for the Seahawks in the top half and, just as he had in the ninth, smoothly retired the side.

“Brian Rodriguez is a salt of the earth kid, one of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” Glavine said. “Couldn’t be happier for him. I wanted to save him for the whole game. We fired our bullet early with Cam, we saved Brian for the end, and we knew we would have all those other guys in between. We were just hoping they could give us everything they had because they were on empty. They fought, they battled, but we don’t win that game without Brian Rodriguez.”

And thus the table was set for Max Viera.

“His curveball was working, his fastball was working, and he was spotting up, so I was just looking for a fastball I could hit,” Viera said. “I just go blank [when I hit it]. I think it’s a flyout, I’m rounding first base, see it’s gone, and I feel like I’m in a dream.”

“This is the number one moment,” Viera said with a three-mile-wide smile plastered across his face. “I can barely talk.”

Glavine added that despite the euphoria, despite the unprecedented achievement, the team isn’t done.

“Let’s do something else we haven’t done before and that’s get into an [NCAA] regional and actually make some noise,” he said. “I believe this team can do it.”

Northeastern Loses CAA Championship

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about vengeance.

The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their way to an overtime victory.

The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.

That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.

The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went home.

But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride, 70–61.

The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are going home.

“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”

“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”

Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich called for time.

While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling, they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.

But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with just four points.

“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”

After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets, Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions: nine points.

Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the lead for all of 18 seconds.

By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.

“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”

A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.

There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.

But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.

The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction, determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last college game.

Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads, excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking, Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.

Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.

The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.

Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.

Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.

When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot because he’s killing us.

That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Northeastern team.

But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It was Buie.

Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his moment.

He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a strong finish through contact.

With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.

Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.

Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride made every one of their free throws.

The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001. They also had their revenge.

“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The championship went through them.”

“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”

“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too much Desure Buie.”

With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college careers on a brutal loss.

“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group was a special group.

“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.

“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but . . . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”

Men’s Basketball Downs Elon, Advances to CAA Championship

Reminder: Northeastern faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Matt Neiser

WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7 seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?

Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal, and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.

Confused? You must be new around here. Welcome to the CAA. 

Northeastern and Elon, two teams most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary, respectively, the night before. 

Despite similar postseason expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.

Things finally began to make a little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60 victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.

Defense has been the Huskies’ calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which time Northeastern had tallied nine points.

“Our defensive energy to start the game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.

Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.

“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some really good things to exploit our defense.”

The biggest driver of Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.

While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.

Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told, Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.

It’s fortunate for the Huskies that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland, who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on an inefficient 3–10 shooting. 

Roland did find other ways to impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty standards.

That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.

Despite chugging along for much of the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with 33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on Elon’s spark.

The Phoenix kept striking that flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11. 

All-CAA Second Team swingman Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under three minutes remaining.

“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”

The Huskies were on their heels, but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.

“I just kind of felt like the game was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”

Pull-up, triple, good.

Elon got two looks at a three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect. Rebound Northeastern.

Crossover, three-ball, money.

There’s the Jordan Roland Husky fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.

Elon was relegated to the foul game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity stripe to close the game out.

Northeastern becomes just the fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.

Coen started both Sunday and Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”

Brace, a senior, is reveling in the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”

The Huskies have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware team in the other semifinal.

Said Coen of the impending matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”