Westfield Mass- The Westfield State men's basketball team will face off against Salem State in the MASCAC championship this Saturday, February 23rd at 1:00pm in Salem.
It's a clash of the top two seeds as the #1 seeded Vikings come into this game 17-9 with a conference record of 10-2, while the #2 seeded Owls are 16-10 and 8-4 in the conference.
Westfield State is coming off a big conference semi-finals win against Fitchburg state, where sophomore Christopher Prophet (Springfield Central HS/Springfield, Mass.) continued his strong stretch of play with 24 points to go along with four assists. Salem State defeated Bridgewater State by a score of 93-80 to advance to the conference championship.
Westfield and Salem have split the season series at one game apiece, with both games being decided by two points or less. The Vikings defeated Westfield State back on January 19 in a comeback, 103-101 overtime thriller, where they trailed by 11 with just seven minutes left. The Owls got their revenge with a 94-93 win on February 9th, in a wild game with nine technical fouls between the two teams. Westfield trailed by as many as 17, and sophomore Malik Pouncy (Springfield Commonwealth Academy/Mattapan, Mass.) drilled a clutch three-pointer with seven seconds left to take the lead in the win.
This game will feature three potential MASCAC player of the year candidates in juniors Jauch Green, Jr. (Hartford, Conn.), Hakeem Animashaun (Dedham Ma.), and Sean Bryan (Lowell, Ma), each of which have dropped 40+ points in Westfield and Salem State's previous matchups this season.
Green Jr. continued his fantastic season in Westfield's semifinals win against Fitchburg, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He comes into the conference championship with averages of 23.1 points to go along with 10 rebounds per game.
The Owls have led a balanced attack all season, as they have three other players averaging in double figures. Christopher Prophet (12.2 points per game), Marcus Collins (Cambridge Rindge and Latin/Cambridge, Mass.) (14 PPG), and Vawn Lord (West Springfield HS/Amherst Mass.) (10.5 PPG) have all had very solid seasons for Westfield State.
The Owls will have their hands full with the #1 seeded Vikings and their star junior duo of Animashaun and Bryan. Animashaun has averaged 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game this season, while Bryan has averages of 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists.
Salem State has run the league over the past three decades with 17 conference championships since 1990, with their most recent title coming in the 2016-17 season. Westfield State's last appearance in the title game was in the 2014-15 season, when they took home the MASCAC championship.
- by Nick Dolan, sports information intern