NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Westfield State Owls earned a hard-fought, overtime victory over the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Trailblazers Tuesday evening in the Amsler Campus Center Gym. The hotly contested battle moves the Owls a half-game in front of MCLA at 8-2 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (18-4 overall). The Trailblazers suffer their second MASCAC defeat and fall to 7-2 in the conference (11-11 overall).
Westfield was paced by Jordan Santiago's game-high 16 points. Grant Cooper finished with a double-double effort of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Matt Devine also notched a double-double ending the night with 13 points and 13 caroms. He also added six steals and four blocks. Owl leading scorer Lee Vazquez ended the night with 11 points, all of which came in the final 25 minutes.
For MCLA, they had three players end the night with 12 points as Ruben DelRosario, Paul Maurice and John Jones led the charge.
The game was tight from start to finish. In the second half alone, no team led by more than six points and the final 25 minutes of play featured nine ties and 11 lead changes. The Owls actually scored the game's final six points to earn the key victory.
In the extra session, the teams traded baskets to start the overtime. From that point, Trailblazer Maurice made one of two at the line and DelRosario drained a desperation three as the shot clock winded down to give MCLA a 69-65 edge with 2:41 left in overtime.
Westfield's Cooper scored in the post to pull within a pair and then Lee Vasquez nailed a pull up three to give Westfield a 70-69 lead with 1:54 remaining. Both teams committed turnovers that set up a frantic final 30 seconds.
MCLA had possession and following a sideline out of bounds play, Trailblazer Bilal Shabazz was stripped by Dan Tessier with nine seconds left giving the Owls possession. Forced to foul, MCLA sent Santiago to the stripe. He missed the first, but made the second to give Westfield a 71-69 edge.
MCLA had one last chance and Maurice got a great look at a game-winning 3-pointer, however it hit the iron as the buzzer sounded giving the Owls the win.
The contest was physical all night long and was evident in the second half. With the score tied at 52 all, DelRosario stole a pass and headed for a layup. He was fouled by Santiago. The foul drew the ire of the MCLA bench. Double technicals were issued, however MCLA lost seven players for leaving the bench area, leaving the hosts with just seven players for the remainder of the contest.
Westfield seemed in control at that point moving out to the largest lead of the second half at 61-55 with five minutes remaining. MCLA rallied though, going on a 7-0 run to take a 62-61 edge with 2:51 left in regulation. Cooper's jumper put Westfield back in front, which then led to Vernon Cross making one of two at the line to tie the score with just 44 seconds left.
The Owls missed a pair of shots and then ultimately turn the ball over as time expired sending the game into overtime.
MCLA will look to get back on track when they travel to Framingham State on Saturday.