WESTFIELD – Junior forward Grant Cooper (Northampton) notched a rare triple-double (11 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists) and senior center Carl Stewart (Springfield) had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Westfield State University to an easy 86-52 victory over Fitchburg State University on Saturday, Feb. 22.
Westfield, 15-10 overall, finishes the regular season in a three-way tie for second place in the highly competitive Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) with an 8-4 record.
Bridgewater State and Worcester State also own 8-4 records while Salem captured the regular season crown at 9-3. The Owls, who sustained two of their losses to Worcester, are the No. 4 seed for the MASCAC postseason tournament and will host Western Mass. rival MCLA on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7:00 p.m.
Fitchburg State (2-22 overall, 2-10 MASCAC) was the 2013 MASCAC Tournament champion but the Falcons finished in last place this season and failed to qualify for postseason play.
Cooper, a leading candidate for MASAC player of the year, exited the game with seven minutes remaining as he posted his triple-double in 30 minutes of action. The electric 6-3 forward also had two blocks and two steals.
Stewart, the only Westfield State senior, posted his double-double in 18 minutes of action, while junior forward Dan Johnson (Belchertown) was 5 for 7 from 3-point range and tied for game-high scoring honors with 16 points.
All 10 players scored for the Owls, including sophomore reserve forward Tchuijo Nkamebo (Amherst) with 10 points. Starting junior swingman Dan Tessier continued his solid play with eight points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The Owls put together two incredible scoring runs to clip the Falcons. Leading 23-15, Westfield outscored Fitchburg 23-4 in the final 8:21 of the first half for an insurmountable 46-19 lead.
Westfield then went on a 22-4 scoring surge in the opening eight minutes of the second half for its biggest lead of the game, 68-23.
Standout senior guard Mike Ingram-Rubin was the only Fitchburg player in double figures with 16 points. Senior forward Mo Molin had nine points and nine rebounds.
MEN HOST MCLA IN MASCAC OPENER: The Salem State Vikings have earned the top seed in the 2013-14 Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament which begins on Tuesday, February 25, with the quarterfinals, then the semifinals on Thursday, February 27, and the championship on Saturday, March 1.
Landing first-round byes, Salem State and Bridgewater State will await the winners of the quarterfinal match-ups on Tuesday. Third-seeded Worcester plays host to sixth-seeded Framingham State at 7 p.m. at Assumption College, while fourth-seeded Westfield State entertains fifth-seeded MCLA at 7 p.m.
Salem State will host the winner of Westfield State/MCLA on Thursday at 7 p.m., and Bridgewater State will take on the victor of Worcester State/Framingham State at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. The semifinal winners will meet in the championship game on Saturday which will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.
Salem State earned the top seed in the tournament with nine conference wins and a 16-8 overall record. Junior Bryan Ortiz led the Vikings in points per game (15.7) and finished the season third in the conference in three-point percentage (39.4).
Earning the second seed in the tournament, Bridgewater State ended the regular season with eight wins and a 14-11 overall record. Leading the way for the Bears, junior Michael Lofton concluded the regular season first in the conference in field goal percentage (66.3) and third in both points per game (16.8) and rebounds per game (9.2).
Worcester State sits in the third slot with eight conference wins and an 11-13 overall mark on the season. Senior Dane Jobst was a dominant force for the Lancers, leading the league in rebounds per game (13.5) and fourth in points per game (16.7).
Westfield State locked down the fourth-seed with eight league wins and a 15-10 overall record. Junior Grant Cooper had a strong season for the Owls, finishing second in both points per game (17.2) and rebounds per game (9.2).
Nabbing the final two tournament spots were MCLA and Framingham State. MCLA concluded the regular season with five conference wins and an 8-16 overall record. John Jones paced the Trailblazers, finishing third in the MASCAC in field goal percentage (50.6), fourth in rebounds per game and fifth in points per game (16.7).
Framingham State rounds out the tournament field with the sixth-seed. Junior Jamie Henderson led the Rams in points per game (10.8) while freshman Daniel Gould finished the regular season fourth in the MASCAC in three-point percentage (38.2)
During the 2012-13 conference tournament, fifth-seeded Fitchburg State upset second-seeded MCLA 80-72 to claim its first conference title and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.