Bridgewater, MA- The MCLA women's basketball team captured its first ever conference title by defeating Worcester State 68-65 today in Bridgewater. The win improves MCLA to 18-9 and they earn the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament which begins on Friday.
MCLA was propelled by sophomore Jen Wehner (Cooperstown, NY), who earned Tournament MVP honors, with game-highs of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Lucy Tremblay (East Greenbush, NY) tallied 10 points and nine boards while senior teammates Laura Silverman (Ballston Lake, NY) and Jade Prickett (Westhampton, MA) recorded 10 points apiece.
Junior Alexis George (Worcester, MA) paced Worcester State (15-13) with a team-high 15 points while senior Bri Flanders (Southampton, MA) added 12 points with six boards. Freshman Kara Rogers (Lowell, MA) came off the bench to produce 11 points with four assists. Sophomore Kaleigh Charette (Fairhaven, MA) also finished with six points and a squad-best eight caroms.
MCLA jumped to an early 7-2 lead before they opened the game up to a 20-11 advantage at the 12:46 mark. Worcester State used a 6-1 spurt to trail by four points (21-17) with 9:46 left, but the Trailblazers converted three consecutive lay-ups to go back up 27-17, 1:30 later.
WSC chipped the lead back down to five points (27-22) at 5:47, but MCLA would go on to outscore the Blue and Gold by a 9-3 margin as they went into the locker room with the 38-25 edge.
The Trailblazers maintained double-digits for most first part of the second half until the Lancers pulled to within six at the 12:02 mark (52-46). With MCLA up 54-49 with 9:56 left in regulation, the Trailblazers went on a 9-3 run to go back up 63-52 at 6:14.
As MCLA held the 66-56 edge with 3 ½ minutes remaining, the Lancers used one final push to close the gap to just one point with 20 seconds left (66-65). O'Keefe keyed a trey with 1:04 remaining and then she canned a pair of free throws to threaten the lead.
WSC forced a miscue, but their bid to score the go-ahead points came up short on a missed jumper. Worcester State was forced to foul Prickett who then calmly drilled a pair of free throws to put the Trailblazers up by three (68-65). With nine seconds remaining Worcester State tried to heave a three-pointer to knot the score in desperation, but their attempt was just short of the net.
Worcester State connected for 36 percent of their shots in the opening stanza (9-for-25), but rebounded to shoot a modest 41 percent (12-for-29). MCLA held the hot hand as they poured in 65 percent of their shots, but the Lancers buckled down on defense and held the Trailblazers to hit eight of their 25 attempts from the field (32%).
MCLA was aided by a consistent free throw shooting in the second frame as they went 13-for-14 from the charity stripe (92%).
Both teams were even in rebounding (32-32), but the Lancers held a 14-8 edge off the offensive glass.