FITCHBURG, Mass. - The top-seeded Fitchburg State men's basketball team held off #2 Salem State, 82-78, to capture the 2016 Massachusetts State Athletic Collegiate Conference (MASCAC) Championship played on Saturday afternoon at the Parkinson Gymnasium in the Rec Center. The Falcons earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins on Thursday, March 3rd.
Fitchburg senior guard Givaughn Jones led the way for the Green and Gold, collecting 20 points while adding six rebounds and three steals. Besides Jones, three other members of the starting five made their way into double-digits for points with junior Jaleel Bell (16), sophomore Josh Bosworth (11), and Kwame Lee (10) all contributing significantly to the Falcons' conference championship win.
For Salem State, senior forward Marcus Faison had a game-high 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds while sophomore Shaq Murray scored 15 and dished out a pair of assists. Junior guardShyhelm Davis picked up a bench-high 19 points on 32 minutes of action.
The opening tip-off was controlled by Salem State. But after back-to-back strong defensive possessions for Fitchburg State, it was the hosts getting on the board first as junior guard Leonny Burgos scored the first couple of points on a lay-up.
Salem State went on to score the next five points, including a three from sophomore Murray, before the Falcons upped their margin by scoring seven unanswered (9-5) and forcing the Vikings to call a time-out with 15:20 left in the half.
At the 15-minute mark of the half the teams began to exchange hoops as Faison scored six- straight for the Vikings to match six points coming from the hosts (15-11).
Salem State then proceeded to go on a modest 7-3 run, getting themselves to within one point before Fitchburg State was forced to call its first time out with 8:58 left.
Following the break in the action, Salem State continued to best Fitchburg State on scoring drives, going on a 11-9 run to grab the lead at 29-27.
But the Green and Gold controlled the final five minutes of the half, outscoring the visitors 15-8 as sophomore guard Lance Hill hit seven for Fitchburg State including a triple with just 2 seconds left to close-out the first half (42-37).
After intermission, the Falcons picked up where they left off scoring six of the half's first 10 points. Jones was responsible for four of those points himself, forcing Salem State to use a time-out with 18:13 remaining. The Vikings then turned the tables on the Falcons, using a 10-6 run to pull to within three (54-51) and force Fitchburg to call a time-out.
With 9:26 to go, the hosts got out to their largest lead of the contest after Lee knocked down his first three-pointer of the contest to push the score up to 67-56.
Salem State cut the deficit back down to seven points as the teams exchanged baskets late, but neither team could separate going into the final stretch of the contest. The Vikings continued to battle, getting back to within two and forcing the Falcons to call another time-out with 1:04 left in regulation.
The hosts were able to close out the contest with 20 seconds left when Salem State was forced to intentionally foul. Sophomore Bosworth was able to knock down both from the stripe, pushing the Falcon lead to four, producing the final score of 82-78, and giving Fitchburg State its second men's basketball league crown in the last four years.
Throughout the contest Fitchburg State shot 33-of-65 (50.8%) while knocking down 3-of-7 from the three-point line, with 13-of-22 coming from the charity stripe.
Salem State ended the game with 29-of-65 shooting (44.6%) hitting a pair of triples and making its free-throws at an 18-for-29 clip.
Salem State controlled the glass, with a 43-35 edge in total rebounds and a 13-7 advantage in offensive boards.
The MASCAC conference championship featured 10 ties and eight lead changes before a winner was crowned, with the largest deficit coming at the 9:26 mark of the second half (11 points).
Fitchburg State University (18-9) awaits its seeding in the NCAA Division III Tournament with pairings announced on Monday. Salem State closes out its campaign at 16-11.
Courtesy of Fitchburg State Sports Information