NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts men's basketball team made some key defensive plays in the final minute to hold off Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Framingham, 67-64. After the Trailblazers fourth straight win, MCLA is now 4-0 in MASCAC action and improves to 7-9 overall. Framingham drops to 8-9 overall and 1-4 in the MASCAC.
After a first half in which MCLA never led, the hosts took control early in the second half. They used an 8-0 run out of the locker to seize control. They held the lead for much of the second half until Framingham made a closing run.
With the score at 56-50 in favor of MCLA with 7:52 to play following a Vernon Cross jumper, the Rams outscored the Trailblazers 12-5 over the next five minutes to take their only second-half lead at 62-61 after Rico DePaolis drilled a 3-pointer with 2:46 left in regulation. Following an MCLA timeout, Trailblazer freshman Paul Maurice answered with a three of his own, giving MCLA a two-point lead.
Framingham's Yemi Ajao answered with a strong move to the bucket to knot the score at 64 with 1:23 left setting up a frantic final minute of play. Cross converted a pair of free throws with 51 seconds left to put the home team up a pair.
The Rams' Ajao went strong to the basket on the next possession, only to have Richard Johnson block his shot while Cross grabbed the rebound. With Framingham forced to foul, MCLA's Bilal Shabazz was sent to the line, however, he missed both ends giving the Rams possession with 25 seconds left.
With just six seconds remaining, Ajao beat Cross off the dribble and fed a cutting Timothy Sheridan on the low block. Out of nowhere, Shabazz blocked the shot from behind and the ball fell into teammate Richard Johnson's arms. He was fouled and made one of two free throws, giving Framingham one last chance. The Rams never got a shot off, turning the ball over on the inbounds pass to seal the win for MCLA.
Framingham never trailed in the opening half. They led by as many as seven on three different occasions, the last of which was at the 1:23 mark following an Ajao layup making the score 29-22. MCLA responded with a jumper in the lane from Ruben DelRosario and a Shabazz putback to trim the margin to just 29-26 at halftime.
The Trailblazers will try to remain atop the MASCAC on Saturday when they host Fitchburg State at 3 p.m.