Click here for Salem State-Bridgewater State Box Score
Courtesy Salem State Sports Information
Regular season champion Salem State is headed back to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence, as the Vikings won the MASCAC Tournament title with a convincing 83-71 win over No. 2 Bridgewater State on Saturday afternoon at Twohig Gymnasium. It's the Vikings first conference championship in four years and their 16th overall.
Salem State (20-7), which has now won ten straight, was led by MASCAC player of the year Brian Clark (Deerfield, MA), who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and led four Vikings in double figures. The win secured the MASCAC’s automatic bid to next week's NCAA tournament. SSU avenged last season's loss to Bridgewater State in the conference championship game.
The Vikings took the lead for good in the waning moments of the first half, but had to hold off several Bear charges in the second half. Tavone Wynder (Boston, MA) scored 12 of his 17 points and Andrew White (Medford, MA) scored 11 of his 17 points after intermission, while Dan Clark (Deerfield, MA) added 12 for the Vikings. Nate Simpson (Lowell, MA) led the team with 13 rebounds.
Bridgewater State (15-11) was led by Samuel Johnson (North Chelmsford, MA) who had 20 points and 10 boards, Anthony Fortes (Providence, RI), who had 17 points, and Michael Lofton (Mansfield, MA), who had 19 points and 16 rebounds.
After a back and forth first half, in which Salem State led by as many as nine and trailed by as many as five, the Vikings took a 35-30 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, Wynder took over for the Vikings during a five-minute stretch which saw the team expand their lead to double figures. He hit a three to give SSU a 46-38 advantage, then followed a jumper with a conventional three-point play and two free throws to boost the lead to 55-43 with 13 minutes left.
The Bears responded with a 14-4 run that began with buckets by Fortes and Johnson. Ceasar Veal (Boston, MA) hit a three, and Lofton had a three-point play and a rebound follow. When Johnson hit two free throws after Simpson was whistled for a technical foul, Bridgewater State was back within two, 59-57 with 9:29 left.
However, true freshman Nicholas Grassa (Lynn, MA) buried a three from the left side to give the Vikings a five-point cushion, and hoops by White and Brian Clark put Salem State back up by eight. Dan Clark's follow slam with five minutes left built the Viking advantage back to double figures and sparked an 8-0 run that gave them their biggest lead of the game, 74-60 with 3:39 left.
Bridgewater would not recover as the Bears would not get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Salem State will learn its' NCAA Tournament destination on Monday when the Division III pairings are announced.