MCLA women begin conference tourney play

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NORTH ADAMS >> The last time the MCLA women's basketball team was in the MASCAC postseason tournament, most of the Trailblazers were still in high school.

The Trailblazers earned the fourth seed in the tournament and by virtue will play a home game tonight at the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium. It's the first time in four years that MCLA has played in the tournament.

MCLA will host fifth-seeded Salem State tonight at 6. The winner of the game will play a semifinal against top-seeded Westfield State on Thursday.

"I'm happy, especially for our upperclassmen," MCLA coach Holly McGovern said Monday night after practice, "who have been through a long haul.

"The focus for me has been helping this group develop."

The last time the Trailblazers (13-12) played in the postseason tourney, they advanced to the championship game before losing to Bridgewater State. The Trailblazers are seeking their first championship since beating Worcester State in 2010.

In the other quarterfinal, third-seeded Bridgewater State hosts No. 6 Worcester State. The winner of that game will go to No. 2 Framingham State on Thursday.

The winners play Saturday on the home court of the highest remaining seed. The time for that game is to be determined.

MCLA comes into tonight's game having won two of their last three, beating Fitchburg State and Norwich, before dropping an 82-53 decision to Bridgewater in the regular-season finale. Salem, 8-17, beat Fitchburg 61-30 in the regular-season finale, but the Vikings had lost four of their preceding five games.

Other than their MASCAC games, MCLA and Salem have only one common opponent. MCLA defeated Lasell 85-72 while Salem lost 63-52 in overtime.

MCLA and Salem played here on Jan. 13, and the Trailblazers came away with a 47-41 win. Kayla Hotaling had 12 points and 12 rebounds. MCLA forced 28 turnovers in the game and scored 24 points off of those turnovers.

The rematch was played in Salem on Feb. 6, and the Vikings scored a 72-61 win. In that game, MCLA led 38-31 at halftime and 50-47 after three quarters. But in the fourth quarter, Salem outscored the Trailblazers 25-11.

It was a tough night on the glass for MCLA. While Hotaling had 10 rebounds in the game, the Vikings outrebounded the Trailblazers 52-34 and had 15 second-chance points.

"They're a little bigger than us," said McGovern. "We'll need our focus to be boxing out and getting rebounds."

Hotaling is the leading scorer and rebounder for MCLA, averaging 11.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. She is also the only double-figure scorer for the Trailblazers. That's both good and bad news for McGovern's team.

"I think it's very good that we don't have to rely on one person," she said. "But who's going to be hot?"

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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