NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts junior John Jones led a balanced scoring attack in which six Trailblazers tallied double-figures as MCLA held off Salem State, 77-72, this evening in Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference action.
The Trailblazers snapped a three-game skid with the win, improving to 4-9 (1-0 MASCAC) in the process. Salem State falls to 9-5 overall and evens their league mark at 1-1.
Joining Jones in double figures were Paul Maurice (15), Richard Johnson (12), Ramon Viches (11), Bilal Shabazz (11), and Ruben DelRosario.
Salem was paced by Nate Simpson's game highs of 27 points and 14 rebounds.
After Salem State grabbed an early lead, the hosts shot in front in the opening half and never looked back. With the visitors holding an 18-14 lead, MCLA went on a 13-2 game-changing run to take command at 27-20 with 5:56 left in the opening half. The Trailblazers cruised into the locker room holding a 36-31 lead.
Salem scored the first two buckets of the second half to pull within one, but MCLA responded once again. This time they used a 13-3 spurt ignited by Shabazz and Viches with five points each, grabbing their largest second-half lead at 49-38.
MCLA held the lead over the next several minutes before Salem made one final run. With the score now at 71-66 with a minute remaining, Simpson converted a jumper in the lane to pull within three with just 36 seconds left. MCLA's Maurice was fouled on the next possession and calmly pushed the lead back to five at 73-68.
After Salem's Andrew White converted a pair of freebies to pull within 73-70, MCLA missed a pair of free throws on their end giving Salem a chance to tie. Viking Justin Nieves had a solid look at a corner three, however he came up short and Salem was forced to foul with 12 seconds left. After an intentional foul was called, Trailblazer guards DelRosario and Maurice each knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the win.
For MCLA, Johnson added a team-high eight rebounds.
Simpson was 10-20 from the floor for Salem en route to his strong night. Andrew White was the only other Viking in double figures, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds.
MCLA held the high-scoring Vikings to just 35 percent shooting compared to 43 percent for themselves.
The Trailblazers are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Worcester State to face the Lancers at 5:30 p.m.