NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts men's basketball team had a double-digit lead late in the second half, but then had to hang on late as they defeated Worcester State, 78-75.
With the win, the Trailblazers' Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference record improves to 7-1, with MCLA heading into a key matchup with Westfield State Tuesday night. The Lancers even their record at 10-10 overall, and fall to 4-5 in league play.
MCLA (11-10, 7-1) held the lead much of the night and led 69-58 with just 1:46 left to play following a Richard Johnson putback. Worcester State would not go quietly however, as Alex Lopez quickly answered with a layup and Kyle Ferreira knocked down a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 69-62 with 1:19 remaining.
Johnson made a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to nine, but Lancer forward Dane Jobst drilled a 3-pointer to close the gap to 71-65. MCLA's Ruben DelRosario knocked down three out of four free throws in the next two possessions to push the Trailblazer lead to 74-65 in what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit for the Lancers.
A Lopez triple sliced the lead to 77-71 with 40 seconds left and then MCLA helped the cause by missing a pair of free throws. Jobst added two from the strip to pull within four at 77-73 with just 23 seconds left.
After MCLA made one of two from the line, Lancer Robert Hunter converted a layup and was fouled, making it 78-75. He missed the free throw, but the Lancers got the rebound as it caromed out of bounds setting up one last opportunity. The MCLA defense stepped up and Lopez missed a last-second 3-pointer, giving the Trailblazers the victory.
John Jones was spectacular for MCLA, piling up 21 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double. Paul Maurice added 12 points for MCLA while Bilal Shabazz added 10.
The MCLA win sets up a huge showdown with rival Westfield State on Tuesday night at 7:30.