FITCHBURG, Mass. --- Fitchburg State University and Bridgewater State University entered Saturday afternoon's men's basketball matchup locked in a tie for the #2 seed in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) standings, but the Falcons took sole-possession of that spot, defeating the Bears 81-78 on Play4Kay day at Parkinson's Gymnasium.
With the win, Fitchburg State splits the regular season-series with Bridgewater State, and improves to 6-2 in league-play.
Senior Jaleel Bell fell shy of twenty points, finishing the contest with 19 on 6-of-13 shooting, adding ten rebounds to log his fifth double-double of the year for the Falcons. Junior forward Josh Bosworth added 15 points (six rebounds) during the victory.
In the first half, the MASCAC contenders traded blows, with Fitchburg State opening the contest on a 10-7 run to take an early lead. Bosworth was cooking early on offense, scoring six points to open the contest.
Nine ties and seven lead changes were featured in the opening twenty minutes, but the Green & Gold headed into the lockeroom with an advantage as a 6-2 closing run erased a three-point deficit and gave them the 38-37 halftime lead.
After the intermission, Fitchburg State continued to build upon the gap with freshman Nicholas Tracy and senior Lance Hill finishing at the rim in the opening minute of the second half. Following a pair of free throws from Bridgewater's Patrick McGuiness, the Falcons upped the ante as Tracy netted another before senior Leonny Burgos gave his team the largest lead from either team in the second half – eight points – with 14:57 to go (50-42).
The Bears battled back with a 13-0 scoring run, highlighted by a Former-Falcon, Kenyon Armstrong, jumping the passing lane to intercept the ball, and finishing on the other end in transition (55-50).
With 2:06 left until the conclusion, the team's traded leads, first when senior Jalen Williams pulled down a rebound on the offensive glass, finishing under the hoop, giving the Falcons a 72-71 advantage.
After surrendering the lead twice, Fitchburg State retained it for good when Williams picked up another late bucket in the paint with 43 seconds left - The Green & Gold used it to spark an 8-3 scoring run, sealing the 81-78 final when Bosworth stole an inbounds pass to end the contest.
Bridgewater's McGuinness had a team-high 17 points on 7-for-8 from the field and four assists in 30 minutes played. Carty added a double-double in the conference set-back, picking up 13 points and rebounds in a full 40 minutes of work. Junior Rocky DeAndrade added 12 points.
Fitchburg's Burgos recorded 31 minutes and picked up 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting and five rebounds. Williams added 12 points and five boards. Tracy swiped a game-high five steals.
Throughout the contest, the Falcons finished 29-for-60 (48.3%) from the field and 21-for-24 (87.5%) from the charity stripe. The Bears ended the game 27-for-61 shooting and 16-for-20 (80%) from the free throw stripe. Fitchburg State held an advantage on rebounds (37-to-31) while Bridgewater State forced more turnovers (14-to-12).
There were 20 lead changes and 16 ties during the MASCAC clash.
Next up, Bridgewater State (12-9, 5-3 MASCAC) hosts the top-seed, Salem State, during a 5:30 PM matchup on February 8th. Fitchburg State (11-10, 6-2 MASCAC) continues its stretch of league-games on the same day when I-90 rival Worcester State comes to town for a 5:30 tip-off.
Release courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Kyle Prudhomme