WORCESTER— Worcester State (20-7) women were unable to slow down the Westfield State backcourt on Saturday afternoon, as the Owls (18-9) secured their fourth straight MASCAC Tournament Championship with the 84-73 victory.
“We didn’t want to get into a running game with them,” said Worcester State head coach Karen Tessmer. “We wanted to control tempo and play good defense — it just didn’t go our way today.”
With the Lancers utilizing the entire 30-second shot clock in the first half, and having their frontcourt find shooters along the perimeter, Worcester managed a 12-point lead at 35-23 late in the second quarter.
“[We worked the shot clock down], to take away possessions,” said Tessmer, who just finished her 25th year as head coach for the Lancers. “Our goal was to take open shots and get layups.”
Despite trailing 35-26 at the break, Westfield came out in the second half behind a resurgence by Tournament MVP Lucy Barrett, who scored 18 of her 20 points in the third and fourth quarters.
“(Barrett) is strong and can go hard to the basket,” Tessmer said. “She’s an excellent free-throw shooter, and a tough guard and I thought in the first half we did a great job on her.”
Worcester seniors Kaitlyn Berkel, and Kate Suprenant along with sophomore guard Colleen Cutting (Auburn, Mass.) combined for 30 of the Lancers’ 35 points in the first half.
On the defensive end, Worcester forced 10 Owl turnovers while holding down both the senior Barrett and the senior Kierra McCarthy to only nine-combined points.
“I thought our defense was excellent in the first half, and then they just got into their rhythm and shooting — and they’re a good team, and put up a lot of points.,” Tessmer said.
The Owls scored 58 of their 84 points in the second half, pushing the tempo to outscore Worcester 14-2 on the fast break, while only turning the ball over once in the final two quarters.
Despite the Owls putting up 30 points in the third quarter, Worcester held a 57-56 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Westfield went ahead after a Barrett layup on the left side, and a steal by McCarthy (Game-high 22 points), as the guard from Ludlow, Mass. went coast-to-coast to put the Owls up 60-59 with 8:37 left.
Suprenant (17 points, 4 assists) answered with a long jumper from the wing, however the Owls answered as Allison Hester (Sutton, Mass.) converted a layup and then added another, with a plus-one on her steal in the Worcester backcourt, to put the Owls up 64-61.
Worcester’s 6’2” senior Brittany Herring (15 points, 10 rebounds) finished a tough shot underneath to put the Lancers back up 67-66 with 6:45 left, as the former Quaboag High School star was held without a shot in the first half.
“(Herring) got in foul trouble in the first half, but we knew we could count on her in the second half,” Tessmer said. “(Westfield) didn’t have anybody tall enough to guard her, and we knew if we got her the ball, she would have a chance to score.”
Herring was (7-for-8) from the field with nine of her ten rebounds coming in the second half.
After a Catherine Sweeney (21 rebounds) block along the baseline for the Lancers, Westfield went on a 7-0 run, as McCarthy knocked down a jumper and Barrett converted on two consecutive drives to the hoop to put the Owls up for good at 73-67 with 5:11 left.
Herring would add a key block and Berkel (16 points, 8 rebounds) finished in the paint to cut the Owl deficit to 73-69 with 3:24 left, but Westfield quickly answered.
McCarthy knocked down a key three-pointer from the corner to give Westfield a 76-69 lead with 3:14 left, and another from the wing to put the Owls up 79-71 with 2:02 remaining.
“It was defensive breakdowns,” Tessmer said. “We left (McCarthy) open for a big three, and that three by her — I thought changed the tide of the game.”
Herring would add a tough shot in the lane, with 1:38 left, to cut the Worcester deficit to six at 79-73.
The Lancers then missed on a pair of three-pointers on their next possession, finishing the game (0-for-10) from behind the arc. Worcester was then forced to foul down the stretch, eventually succumbing to the reigning champions from Westfield, 84-73.
After the game Coach Tessmer, had a lot of praise for her seniors, who earned the program’s first twenty-win season during her past 25 years at the helm.
“We had four seniors (Herring, Suprenant, Berkel, and Emily Carens) who went to having no gym their freshman year (due to renovations) and winning seven games, to being regular season champions. They’ve been the face of our program, and they’re great people and great basketball players.”