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The highlight of this year's record-breaking men's basketball season was the Feb. 25 game against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said senior guard Mike D'Auria.
For that Saturday game in Worcester, a busload of MIT students came to support the team, almost matching the number of Coast Guard fans in the stands.
"We could just feel the energy in the building," said Coach Larry Anderson, who watched the team's spirits rise and propel the team to a 69-57 victory in that game. "We felt like we were playing for a community that was thirsting for something."
"It was an incredible season, culminating with that game," D'Auria said.
The victory helped the team secure the No. 2 seed in the ECAC Division III Men's New England Basketball Tournament, a fitting end to a season D'Auria called, "a really fun ride."
The MIT Engineers trounced their competition this year, going 21-9 and breaking the MIT record for the most wins in a single season. The previous record, set in 1965, was 19 wins.
D'Auria was named New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Men's Basketball Player of the Year by the league's coaches in all-conference voting. D'Auria has also been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America men's basketball team.
NEWMAC, which comprises 10 schools, also honored Anderson as Coach of the Year and freshman Jimmy Bartolotta as Rookie of the Year.
This year's team was special, said D'Auria. "The four seniors had been together a long time," he said, referring to himself as well as seniors Danny Kanamori, Philip Murray and Gary Atkins. "We were all ready to lead the younger guys," he said.
The freshman crop was impressive from the start, said D'Auria. "They were able to start contributing right away," he said, also citing the incredible dedication of the entire team, who worked together last summer and immediately after the regular season ended to continue to grow and improve. "It was a roller coaster ride, but being able to watch the team grow was really nice for me," he said.
For many on the team, the season proved that MIT students could be successful on the playing field or court as well as in the classroom, said D'Auria. "We are at MIT and there are (academic) constraints on people that other teams do not have to deal with," he said.
The four seniors played their last game on Friday, March 3, when the team lost to Wheaton College in the ECAC semifinals. The loss had a silver lining for D'Auria, who scored 32 points and closed his MIT career with 1,528 points, making him the third all-time leading scorer in MIT history.
The materials science and engineering major plans to go into consulting next year. "It (basketball) has been something that has been a part of my life so long," D'Auria said. "I don't think it has fully sunk in that I won't be playing on a team anymore ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ but it was a great way to go out."
As for Anderson, he hopes the school spirit the team saw in the stands will continue to thrive. "I hope that we can carry what we have done this year into next year and for many seasons to come," he said.