WESTFIELD – Sophomore forward Forbasaw Nkamebo (Amherst) poured in a career high 31 points and junior Jen Ashton (Beverly) added 21 points to lead the Westfield State University women’s basketball team to a 69-62 victory over Worcester State University on Thursday, Jan. 23.
The Owls boosted their record to 3-1 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference and 10-7 overall. Worcester is 2-2 and 6-11.
Normally a key reserve player for the Owls, Nkamebo got the starting nod in place of injured junior standout Gabby Felix (13.9 points, 9.3 rebounds per game) and turned in a monster game with her 31 points and game-high 13 rebounds. The 5-11 center from Amherst High School shot 11 for 18 from the field and 9 for 15 from the foul line in 37 minutes of action.
“Forbasaw played a sensational game tonight,” said Westfield coach Andrea Bertini. “That is the most points any player has scored in my nine years coaching here. The team needed that lift.”
Ashton was also spectacular and executed a nice 2-on-2 game with Nkamebo that would have impressed Larry Bird. In addition to scoring 21 points, Ashton racked up eight steals, seven assists and five rebounds.
“Jen is always a ball hawk,” said Bertini. “She gave a tremendous effort. The biggest factor for us was her leadership.”
With Nkamebo and Ashton both scoring 11 first-half points, the Owls led by as many as five points, 22-17, at the 6:29 mark. But the Lancers closed the first half with an 11-3 run to take a 28-25 intermission lead. Worcester junior guard Kelli McPherson (Mansfield) and senior standout Meaghan Burns (West Brookfield/Quaboag) each scored 10 first-half points.
The game’s turning point came at the outset of the second half when Westfield outscored Worcester, 19-5 for a 44-33 lead with 13:50 remaining. Back-to-back 3-point baskets by freshman guard Alyssa Darling (Palmer) and sophomore forward Tayler Travis (Somerset) sparked a 12-0 run during the early second-half scoring surge.
“Defensively, we worked a lot harder,” said Bertini. “We rebounded well and did not allow a lot of offensive rebounds in the second half.”
Led by Burns, who scored a team-high 21 points including her 1,000th career point, the Lancers chipped away and pulled within two points on a 3-point basket by Julie Frankian (Millbury) with 47 seconds remaining.
But Nkamebo came up huge 20 seconds later with a sensational lay-in while heavily guarded to give the Owls a 65-61 lead.
Burns hit a free throw with 19 seconds remaining then Travis canned two free throws for a 67-62 lead with 18 ticks remaining.
Burns had 980 points entering the game and scored her 1,000th career point on a free throw with six minutes remaining. She is the 18th player in school history to surpass the magic milestone. Burns also totaled nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
McPherson and Shannen El-Qasem (Rutland/Wachusett Regional) scored 12 and 10 points, respectively. Frankian had eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds and Cheyenne Jennings (Worcester/Wachusett Regional)) finished with nine points and five assists.
Both teams shot 41 percent from the field but Westfield (15 for 25) outscored Worcester (9 for 20) from the foul line.
Travis contributed eight points and 10 rebounds in a starting role to help give the Owls a 46-37 edge in rebounding.