WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State clinched a share of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference women's basketball regular-season title with an 82-77, fourth quarter comeback win over Worcester State at the Woodward Center on Saturday.
With the win, Westfield improves to 10-2 in the league and ties with the Lancers for the conference regular season crown. Westfield has won or shared the loop's regular season title in each of the last six years.
The game see-sawed back and forth in the early stages. Westfield led 44-36 at the half, but the Lancers used a 20-9 advantage in third quarter to reclaim the lead.
Worcester grabbed a nine point lead, 62-53 on a Kate Suprenant jumper in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter.
From there, the Owls went to work, tying the game at 71-all on a Melissa Gray (Peabody, Mass.) layup with 5:28 left in the game.
With the game tied at 74, the Owls got back to back layups from freshman Siobhan Moriarty (Danvers, Mass.) and Gray to take a 78-74 lead with 20 seconds to play, and senior guard Lucy Barrett (Mt. Greylock/Williamstown, Mass.), the Owls all-time leading free throw shooter (83.9 %) connected on four straight free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory for Westfield (16-9 overall).
Westfield got big fourth quarter efforts from Gray, who scored 10 points and was 2-2 from behind the arc at crunch time, and got six from Moriarty. Gray finished with 19 points on 5-8 shooting from three point range, and Barrett added 19 as well, Moriarty finished with eight points, and freshman Jenn Rennich (Bedford, Mass.) a forward recruited off the Owls' soccer team at mid-season to add height to the roster, added seven points while hitting a pair of three point tries.
The Owls honored seniors Barrett, Kierra McCarthy (Ludlow, Mass.) and Allison Hester (Sutton, Mass.) before the game, in a ceremony that also recognized retiring 10-year assistant coach Jack Zabek. McCarthy wrappedup her say with seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in a trademark efficient performance, and Hester added six points five rebounds and two steals. The Owls senior class has posted a 74-34 overall record, and a 49-5 mark against league opponents.
The Owls will look to improve on those marks when they begin conference tournament play on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Woodward Center against an opponent that is still TBD. Westfield is the #2 seed in the conference tournament via conference tiebreaker rules.
Worcester (19-6) got 32 points and 15 rebounds from senior center Britt Herring (Quaboag/West Brookfield, Mass.), and 12 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Kaitlyn Berkel (St. Brnards/Waterford, Conn.).
Worcester parlayed it's size advantage into 32-66 (48.5%) shooting from the floor in the game, and a 52-46 edge in rebounds, but the Owls countered by connecting on 13 of 38 (34.2%) thre- point tries, and forced the Lancers in to 25 turnovers while committing just 11.
Worcester gets the #1 seed in the conference tournament via the tiebreaker, and will also have a first round bye and will host a semifinal round MASCAC tournament game on Thursday night at Bressette Court.