SALEM, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts men's basketball team earned a pivotal Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference road victory, defeating the Salem State Vikings, 92-81, Tuesday evening.
With the win, the Trailblazers even their overall record at 10-10, but more importantly remain atop the MASCAC standings in improving to 6-1 overall. The Vikings drop to 12-8 overall and their conference record slips to 4-4.
MCLA shot 51 percent from the floor and knocked down 10 3-pointers in the contest. First-year player Paul Maurice drilled six from long range, including a couple late in the contest, in leading his team with 20 points.
The contest was a back-and-forth affair with each team holding leads in the second half. After the Trailblazers took a 10-point lead into halftime (40-30), Salem came roaring back after scoring the first nine points in the second stanza to pull within one at 40-39. MCLA answered though and eventually push back out to a seven-point lead following a Maurice three with 11:24 to play.
The Vikings quickly answered, using a 14-2 run to grab a 64-59 lead after a Tavone Wynder jumper with 8:23 left. MCLA clawed back into it and eventually tie the game at 68 on Bilal Shabazz' free throw. After a few minutes of action had the score still knotted at 73 apiece, MCLA finally took control.
Kenny Suggs started the game-clinching run with a layup off one of Shabazz' game-high nine assists. Suggs putback a Ramon Viches miss to put MCLA up four and then Richard Johnson's layup put the Trailblazers up 79-73 with 3:07 left. Salem's Hanell Velez' three-point play closed the hosts to within three and after an MCLA free throw, Viking guard Bryan Ortiz drilled a three to make it 80-79 Trailblazers with just over two minutes left.
MCLA's Viches drilled a back-breaking 3-pointer on the next possession to put Salem back on their heels. Salem once again got within three points at 84-81, but Maurice drilled his sixth and final triple with 52 seconds left to seal the win for MCLA.
MCLA will look to continue their path atop the MASCAC on Saturday when they host Worcester State at 5 p.m.