The junior point guard (10 of 16 from the floor in 39 minutes) poured in 24 points and dished out six assists as the third-ranked Engineers (25-1) captured their third conference title in the last four seasons and locked up an automatic berth to the NCAA Division 3 tournament (the pairings will be announced Monday).
"Mitch had been doing it all game," said MIT coach Larry Anderson. "He saw that hole, and he just went. That's not coaching. His decision making, the way he has grown from his freshman year, it's not just his leadership, he is now a clutch player."
Kates, named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, said "every [defender] stayed on their shooters, and I just laid it up."
The next time down the floor, 6-9 senior center Noel Hollingsworth (14 points, 10 rebounds) rolled left and banked in a feathery 12-foot jump hook for a 61-58 lead.
"He can make that shot 80- to 90-percent of the time," said Kates, who buried a pair of clinching free throws with nine seconds remaining. "You watch him run up and down the court, and is so gawky, but his touch is unreal."
Hollingsworth points to persistence, and practice: 200 jump hooks a day since he was 10, growing up in Salt Lake City.
The onus was on both Kates and Hollingsworth to step forward after Will Tashman (10 rebounds), the Engineers' 6-8 junior rock in the paint, picked up his fifth foul with 1:43 remaining.
"When Tash fouled out, Mitch said 'Tash, we got your back," said Anderson. "And we got the ball to Noel at the right time."
With wing Billy Bender (3 steals) providing the defensive spark, the Engineers closed the first half with a 17-4 run for a 37-27, but Springfield (17-10) would not go away, thanks to the relentless work of junior guard Alex Berthiaume (game-high 25 points in a full 40 minutes.
"Springfield fought for 40 minutes, we knew this game would a 40-minute game, it was when we played them earlier this season (a 69-67 win on Feb. 4).
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell