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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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Key Offensive Bridgewater State Rally Leads to Upset Win over MCLA

Guard+Craig+Williams+26+would+lead+the+team+in+points+with+18+during+their+matchup+against+Bridgewater+State.
MCLA Athletics
Guard Craig Williams ’26 would lead the team in points with 18 during their matchup against Bridgewater State.

Matching up for the second time this season, the MCLA and Bridgewater State’s Men’s Basketball teams would carry a tight battle throughout the majority of the first half. Trading shots back and forth, it would be the Bears who would come out top, maintaining a 22-8 run late in the first half that would be too much for the Trailblazers to overcome.

With the win, Bridgewater State improves to an 11-10 record, while MCLA falls to an 11-10 record.

“They shot 67 percent from the field in the first half, so you’re probably going to be down by a bunch every time that happens, said MCLA Head Coach, Derek Shell. “We played harder and more together in the second half, but we dug ourselves quite a hole and they still shot 50 percent in the second half, so defense was an issue today, and they showed up ready to play.”

Already facing off earlier this season with MCLA winning that matchup 80-76, the Trailblazers looked to repeat the same feat, as starting guard Craig Williams ‘26 began the scoring barrage with a three-pointer to put the team up 3-0. The teams would continue trading shots through the first few minutes with MCLA leading 8-4, which would be their highest lead the rest of the game.

The Bears would take advantage of some key shots by Precious Okuh and Dante Kikuba, along with great defensive play in the paint by Emerson Halbleib to go on an 8-0 run and create a 12-8 lead. 

Despite not getting the lead back, MCLA would continue to keep the game close throughout much of the first half, eventually tying the game up at 21 a piece thanks to the hot hand of starting forward Jayden Mills ‘26 who would hit back-to-back three-point shots on offensive possessions.

From there on though, a Bridgewater layup by Halbleib would allow the team to catch fire and take control of the game, going on a 22-8 run to make it a 43-29 ballgame before Shell would call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding. Williams and Mills would each score a layup each, but the Bears continued adding on to their leading and ending the first half with a 54-33 lead.

The Trailblazers would get into some foul trouble with a few questionable offensive foul calls going against MCLA and allow for Bridgewater to continue their momentum. Despite this, the team was determined to stay poised and composed, looking to answer back in the second half.

“We practice six days out of the week, so we’ve been in positions when we’re down or in positions where we’re not going to get any calls, so it’s sticking to what you do and what you practice throughout the season,” said starting guard Quentin Gittens ‘24. “Guys know what their strengths are and guys know what their weaknesses are and every day, regardless of whether we’re up or down, we’re trying to play our best game and do what we do.”

Guard Quitten Gittens ’24 would be the second-leading scorer for the Trailblazers with 17 points. He also would lead the team in both rebounds (6) and assists (7).

Gittens and the Trailblazers would do just that, starting off with starting center Jaxen Potter ‘26 making a quick layup, followed by Quittens picking up a quick seven points thanks to some tough finishes in the paint and good shooting from the free throw line. The team would go on a 9-2 run to cut the lead down to 14 points.

However, the Bears would prevent any further damage, as the team would go on another offensive tear with a 12-3 run, as Okoh, Kikuba, and Zach Taylor able to connect on numerous shots.

The lead would be too much for MCLA to overcome, as Bridgewater would wound up winning the game 89 to 71. For Gittens, the Bears’ ability to play a “complete game” was what separated the teams in who got the win versus who got the loss.

“Especially when it comes down to individual possessions, they just finished each possession strong and had a good run midway through the first half,” he said. “If we’re not boxing out and if we’re not playing the full 30 seconds on the defensive end, it’s hard to beat teams, especially when you’re playing them for the second time since they know all your plays, they’ve seen your looks and they know all of your strengths, so it’s definitely difficult in conference to beat a team that you already beat.”

For Bridgewater, the team would have four players reach double-digit scoring, lead by Okoh who led all scorers with 30 points, followed by Taylor (16 points), Kikuba (11 points) and Louis Jennings (10 points). Halbelib would lead all players with 9 rebounds and Kikuba would lead the team in assists with 5.

For the Trailblazers, Williams would lead the team and tie his career high with 18 points, with Gittens not far behind with 17 points of his own, followed by a team-high in rebounds with six and lead all players with 7 assists.

With three games remaining in the regular season, MCLA is fighting for a chance to clinch home-court advantage and a potential bye in the one seed in the upcoming MASCAC Tournament and believes that the small things will help them get to the big picture.

“I think it’s really just paying attention to the fine details and just knocking those out,” said Gittens. “We beat Bridgewater [State] the first time and we just lost now, but we know we’re capable of beating every team in the conference, it’s just knowing all of our plays and just not messing up our plays and knowing the other team’s assignments in how we want to defend.”

“In games against good teams, it’s going to come down to the individual play and if it comes down to the buzzer, we like to think that wasn’t the play that decided the game, it was every single play leading up to that, so if we can just win one possession at a time, one thirty-seconds on defense and one thirty-seconds on offense and just do what we do and do what we’ve been practicing, then I don’t see why we couldn’t get all the way to the MASCAC Championship and win it,” he continued.

The Trailblazers continue their season with a trip to Salem State for a MASCAC matchup with the Vikings at the Twohig Gymnasium, scheduled for a 7:00 PM tip-off. This game will also help determine a potential landing spot for seeding in the playoffs moving forward for the team as well. 

“We have a big game at Salem [State] on Wednesday, they beat us the first time and Quitten wasn’t there, so we’re hoping his presence will help us,” said Shell. “But it’s a big game for the pecking order of the MASCAC for where our position is, and this game will go a long way to determine where our playoff position is. 

 

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