NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- With eight former Berkshire County high school athletes on the court at MCLA on Saturday, there were a number of local families in the stands for the Trailblazers’ MASCAC-opening double-header against Westfield State.
At least one family got to go home happy.
Westfield State junior Lucy Barrett scored 11 points and passed out four assists to help the Owls defeat MCLA, 101-62, in the opener.
In the nightcap, the Westfield State men earned a 104-87 win over the ‘Blazers despite a team-high 17 points from MCLA’s Joseph Wiggins.
In the first game, Westfield State’s women used their platoon-style substitution pattern and full-court pressure defense to force 41 MCLA turnovers and hold the Trailblazers to just 39 percent shooting when they were able to get the ball into the front court.
The Owls (7-6, 1-1 Massachusetts Small College Athletic Conference) made the most of its 16-player roster with all but one player seeing the floor for 10 or more minutes. Barrett started but played just 14 minutes.
The Mount Greylock graduate said coach Andrea Bertini’s style of constantly keeping fresh legs on the court has been one of the highlights of playing for the Owls.
“Freshman year was the first year we started with it, and I think coming in you don't really expect to play a lot freshman year,” Barrett said. “So when you move to a style where you're automatically at least 10 deep if not more, I know me and the other freshmen were excited about the opportunity. It meant we had a greater chance to get on the court.
“Honestly, it's really fun. People think it's hard to get in a rhythm, but once you're out there, it's so much fun. The game's going fast, you're getting a ton of steals and a lot of opportunities.”
On Saturday, Westfield State forced 10 turnovers in the first seven minutes to take a 14-2 lead when Barrett set up Chelsea Moussette (game-high 20 points) for a 3-pointer.
The Trailblazers righted the ship from there and matched Westfield State through the end of the first quarter and start of the second. When Hoosac Valley’s McKenzie set up Samantha Gawron for a jumper on the baseline, MCLA (4-8, 0-1) cut the deficit to 28-18.
But Westfield State scored the next 11, including a pair when Barrett drove the right wing for a bucket, to take a 21-point lead.
It was 17 at half-time, and the Owls put the game away with an 18-5 run to takea 79-47 lead in the third quarter.
Barrett did a lot of the damage during that stretch, converting two conventional three-point plays, knocking down a triple and assisting on an Ashley Lane bucket during the spurt.
MCLA’s second-half efforts were hampered by the departure of Drury graduate Emily Moulton, who appeared to injure her left foot or ankle battling for a rebound with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half.
“Obviously, losing a player affects you, losing a player of Emily Moulton's caliber, even just the leadership qualities that she puts out there when she plays,” MCLA coach Loren Stock said. “It's hard. It's the style that she plays.”
Moulton led the Trailblazers in points (14) and rebounds (five) in the first half and finished tied for the team scoring lead despite missing the entire second half.
Robinson scored five points and passed out seven assists against just three turnovers. Monument Mountain graduate Kayla Dupont grabbed five rebounds.
Barrett said as much fun as it is to put up a 39-point win, it was tough for her personally to do it against so many players she knows well from their high school careers.
It also has been tough for the two-time defending MASCAC champions to battle through a 6-6 non-league schedule. But considering some of those losses were to the likes of Trinity, Wesleyan and Springfield, the Owls are well positioned to make another run at a league title.
“Coach purposely set up a very hard non-conference schedule, wanting every game to be tough,” Barrett said. “When you're in it, some of the ones we want to get back that we lost, it's hard. But she definitely did that to set us up well.
“Even though we had some losses that I wish we had gotten a win out of it, we also had some really good team wins. That was really good for the confidence, especially having a lot of young girls getting big minutes.”
Westfield State Men 104, MCLA 87
Despite the fact that MCLA shot just 39 percent from the field -- including 33 percent in the first half -- coach Derek Shell was focused on a different stat.
“I think the overwhelming theme of this game is we needed to get stops and we didn't,” Shell said. “We scored, what, 87 points? We should win almost every game where we're scoring 87 points. We needed to get stops, and we didn't do that.”
There were a couple of key moments in the second half when those stops would have been particularly handy.
After Westfield State (7-7, 1-0) went ahead by 15 a couple of times in the early going after the break, MCLA battled back to make it a seven- or eight-point game several times. But the Owls always seemed to have an answer.
With 9:44 left to play, Wiggins hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 71-62, but Westfield State scored the next four.
With about six minutes left, Cross scored in transition to make it a seven-point game, 81-74, but the Owls responded with four straight.
The Trailblazers (3-8, 0-1) then cut it to 85-77 with just less than five minutes to play, but Westfield State’s Moody Bey (game-high 26 points) hit a 3-pointer, a three-point play and a 3-pointer on consecutive trips to push the lead back to 94-79.
Drury graduate Hayden Bird scored two points and had a steal in 11 minutes for MCLA, which got three points and an assist from Wahconah’s Collin Parrott.
Saturday’s game marked the first time this winter MCLA has allowed 100 points, but it has flirted with that plateau, giving up 97 points on two occasions, 98 points once and 99 in its most recent outing, a loss to Southern Vermont College.
“We've struggled defensively all year,” Shell said. “It's just something that's an Achilles heel of ours. It's something we have to get better at if we're going to have anything resembling a successful season.”
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