SALEM, Mass. - Sean Bryan (Lowell, Mass.) posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to lift the #1 Salem State Vikings past the #2 Westfield State Owls 66-57 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) championship on Saturday. Bryan was named tournament MVP for his performances averaging 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 42.5% from the field as Salem State returns to the NCAA Tournament after missing in 2018.
Early in the first half, Salem State's (18-9) defense forced the Owls to take tough shots inside. Westfield State started slow from the field, shooting just 3-11 (27.2%) in the opening minutes of the half. At 14:45, the Vikings were able to build a 12-4 lead when Temi Bailey (West Springfield, Mass.) made a layup.
Later, Westfield State's Marcus Collins (Cambridge, Mass.) found Malik Pouncy (Mattapan, Mass.) open in the corner for three and trimming the Salem State lead to just five, 24-19 with 5:06 left in the half.
Bryan Martinez (Salem, Mass.) who had nine first-half points, sparked the Vikings late as he was fouled on a driving baseline dunk over Justin Rennis (Springfield, Mass.), making the score 26-19 with 3:17 left.
With five seconds left in the first half, Bryan missed a three-point attempt, but Chris Macdonald (Wakefield, Mass.) fought for the rebound and put it back up and in while being fouled in the process. Macdonald converted the and-one as the Vikings led 34-24 at the half.
Both teams didn't shoot well as the Vikings converted only 38.9% (FG 14-36) of their shots while the Owls were just 28.1% (FG 9-32) from the floor. Salem State won the rebound battle in the first half with 29 to Westfield State's 18.
The Vikings limited Owls' top-scorer Jauch Green, Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) to only four points in the first half on 2-7 shooting after he was saddled with two early fouls.
Vawn Lord (Amherst, Mass.) put up seven points in the opening stanza for the Owls.
Trailing by 13 points with 18:40 left in the game, Westfield State began to climb back into the game, when Christopher Prophet (Springfield, Mass.) dished to Collins on a fastbreak the Owls were behind by just five 39-34.
Westfield State continued to stay within striking distance. In a tightly contested second-half, Rennis grabbed the ball and was able to get a tip-in to bring the Owls to within four points as the Vikings led 50-46 with 7:53 remaining in the second half.
With 4:44 left, Westfield State was behind 54-50 as Rennis made both free-throws. On the next possession, Prophet hit a shot from behind the arc and the deficit was just one.
Leading 54-53, Salem State's Martinez proceeded to calmly drill a three to cut the Owls' momentum as the Vikings took a four-point lead at 57-53 with 2:18 remaining.
The Owls' Prophet fouled out with 52.5 seconds left as Bryan made both free throws putting the Vikings ahead 60-55 as the Vikings were able to ice the game as Bryan hit six free throws in the final minute.
Martinez was stellar, tallying 16 points (FG 6-11) and seven rebounds. Hakeem Animashaun (Dedham, Mass.) finished with a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
For Westfield State, Green had 10 points and eight rebounds. Moody Bey (Springfield, Mass.) also scored 11 points (FG 3-7).
The Owls conclude the season with a record of 16-11 under 21st year head coach Rich Sutter. Westfield was making its first appearance in the MASCAC title game since the 2015 Owls squad won the league title/
Salem State's matchup in the NCAA tournament will be announced on Monday.