|Yearsley Leads MCLA Men in MASCAC Playoff Win|
|08:53PM / Tuesday, February 20, 2018|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The MCLA men’s basketball team came into this year with just two conference wins in its last two season.
Tuesday night, that was all in the rear view mirror.
Freshman Noah Yearsley scored 19 points, and Pittsfield’s Keiland Cross had eight points and 12 rebounds in leading the Trailblazers to a 63-52 win over Framingham State in the quarter-finals of the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference tournament.
Third-seeded MCLA (10-15) moves on to Thursday’s semi-finals at No. 2 Bridgewater State (16-9), which beat the Trailblazers by margins of 11 and 13 points in their regular season meetings.
“This is awesome,” Cross said. “We were picked seventh [in the conference preseason], and we finished third. We shocked a lot of people, and we’re not done shocking people.”
One group that wasn’t surprised: the Trailblazers themselves.
“No,” Cross said. “We knew what we had. They ranked us seventh preseason because a couple of guys came back second semester. But we knew what we had, and we knew we could do some damage.”
The Trailblazers did most of their damage in the first half Tuesday from behind the 3-point line, where they hit four in the first six minutes to open the game on an 18-2 run.
St. Joseph graduate Joe Wiggins (seven points) hit the final 3 to give MCLA what ended up being its biggest lead of the night.
It was a 16-point margin again with just less than five minutes to go in the half after Cross set up Ki-Shawn Monroe for a triple to make it 30-14. But Framingham (6-20) closed on a 9-0 run to get within seven at half-time.
Half of MCLA’s first-half shots came from behind the arc -- a trend that head coach Derek Shell did not want to repeat after the break.
“Very rarely does it sustain,” Shell said. “We had to get back to going to the basket. I don’t think we went to the free throw line in the first half, and we had 17 in the second half. That’s really the key right there.”
Four of those free throws -- and three makes -- came from Drury graduate Hayden Bird, who scored six second-half points and finished with eight for the game.
The Trailblazers opened the second half like they started the game, storming out on a 13-4 run to re-establish a double-digit lead. Yearsley fed Wiggins in transition after a Wiggins steal to make it 43-27 with about 14:30 left to play.
But the Rams chipped away and got back within nine, which is about where it stayed through the middle stages of the half.
Part of what kept Framingham in the game: the defensive job it did on MCLA’s leading scorer, Adam Conquest, who finished with six points, well under the 13.3 he averages per game.
But he hit a big shot in the post with about three minutes left to make it 58-47 and start a 7-3 MCLA run to end the game.
Though he didn’t score at his usual pace, Conquest finished with eight rebounds and a pair of blocks. Monroe, Yearsley, Mike Demartinis and Wahconah graduate Collin Parrott each had a pair of assists.
Yearsley was the only Trailblazer to finish in double figures in scoring. All nine MCLA players finished in double digits for minutes played.
That, Cross said, has been the biggest difference between this year’s 6-6 MASCAC campaign and last year’s 0-12 conference record.
“We’ve got depth,” he said. “Last year, I played 38 minutes per game. Joe [Wiggins] played 38 minutes a game. Now, we’ve got this freshman stud over here, Noah [Yearsley], who does it all. Makes my job easier.”