North Adams, MA- Fresh off a hard fought win in the MASCAC quarterfinal round, the third seeded MCLA men's basketball team has advanced to challenge the #2 seed, the Worcester State University Lancers, on Thursday evening in the MASCAC Semifinals. The Trailblazers arrive in the semifinals off a thrilling 80-78 win over #6 Fitchburg State on Tuesday. The Lancers earned an opening round bye after going 10-2 in the conference throughout the regular season. The two teams split the season series with each side winning on the oppositions home court.
Back on January 22nd, MCLA pulled out a thrilling 88-87 overtime win over the Lancers at Brissette Court. Almost a month later, the Lancers earned a bit of revenge as they upended the Trailblazers 96-89 in North Adams.
In the other conference semifinal, the top seeded Westfield State Owls will host the #5 seed, the Salem State Vikings at 7:30 on Thursday. The two winners will advance to Saturday's championship game at the highest remaining seed.
#3 MCLA at #2 Worcester State-
The rubber match between the two schools should be an entertaining contest as both teams have the ability to pile up points. MCLA ranks second in the league in scoring while the Lancers check in at fourth. If the first two matchups are any indication, there should be plenty of long range shots taken. The teams combined to attempt 100 shots from beyond the arc in their previous two contests. Each team boasts plenty of players capable of leading their respective team in scoring. MCLA has five players averaging over 9 ppg while the Lancers have six.
In the first meeting between the schools, MCLA's Noah Yearsley knocked down a three pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into OT and his layup with a few seconds left won it for the Trailblazers. MCLA placed six players in double figures in that contest as Yearsley ended with 16 points. Mike Demartinis collected a team best 18 in the win while last night's hero Chris Becker ended with 14. Balanced scoring, an MCLA strength, was showcased again as Ki-Shawn Monroe, Hayden Bird, and Quentin Gittens all finished the early contest in double figures.
The Lancers also have a potent offense. In the January meeting, five Lancers reached double figures led by Chris Cardoso's 18 point night. Tyler Dion leads the team in scoring at just over 16 ppg, but Cardoso is just behind him at 15.5. Erik Bjorn and Corey Olivier each average over 10 ppg for Worcester.
In the Lancer win a few weeks back, Dion and younger brother Sam torched MCLA for a combined 54 points. Tyler netted 29 while Sam ended with 25. The dynamic pair combined to shoot 16-27 from the floor, but a sizzling 9-14 from three point range. The Lancers connected on 16-27 attempts from three point land in the win inside the Amsler Campus Center.
Whichever team shoots the ball better from beyond the arc in the rubber match will go a long way to determining who advances.
The Trailblazers are seeking their first appearance in the MASCAC championship game since 2013. Ironically that season, MCLA hosted Fitchburg State. The Falcons were led by current Trailblazer head coach Derek Shell. MCLA is seeking their first conference title in men's basketball since the late 1990's.
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