Bird goes for a basket

MCLA's Hayden Bird fires a shot in the Trailblazers' road win over Russell Sage earlier in the season. Bird, Noah Yearsley and Quentin Gittens combined for 56 points as MCLA improved to .500 with a win over Elms. 

NORTH ADAMS — Tuesday night’s winning number was three.

That’s three as in a three-game winning streak for the MCLA men’s basketball team. It’s also three as in a three-game winning streak against Elms College.

Noah Yearsley, Hayden Bird and Quentin Gittens combined to score 56 points for MCLA as the Trailblazers beat Elms College 86-67 in the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium.

The win improved MCLA’s record to 3-0 against the Blazers from Chicopee, who dropped games to the North Adams Trailblazers in 2017 and 2019 before falling on Tuesday.

Yearsley had a game-high 23 points for MCLA, now 5-5. Bird had 18 while Gittens chipped in 14 points. The Taconic High School graduate came close to a triple-double with eight rebounds and six assists.

Reece Racette scored only two points, but was the focal point of the offense with eight assists and a career-high 15 rebounds. He had a game-best five offensive boards for coach Derek Shell’s team.

It is no coincidence, however, that the three-game winning streak for MCLA has come with the return of Yearsley to the lineup. The graduate student from Averill Park, N.Y., played in only one of his team’s first seven games. He returned for the wins over Sage and Northern Vermont-Lyndon.

“I say this everyday when people ask me how I feel, and I say a million-and-one dollars. I feel better than a million to be back,” he said. “It definitely took some time. I don’t think I’m up to par with where I want to be. Obviously, tonight I had a pretty good games comparable to the other games I played.

“I see tonight as an average night in my eyes.”

It was a game where the Trailblazers led for most of it. The last lead for Elms came when D.J. Edelen, who had a team-high 17 points, caught a pass from Justin Feliciano and drained a 3-point shot. The lead lasted for 14 seconds because Yearsley drove to the basket but kicked the ball out to Bird for one of three, 3-point hoops for the MCLA leading scorer. That tied the game at 20.

Elms missed 3-point shots by Edelen and Feliciano, and when MCLA’s Mo Diallo pulled down the rebound of Feliciano’s miss, Edelen was whistled for a technical foul.

Bird went to the line, missed the first and made the second. The technical seemed to kickstart the MCLA offense as it was part of a 16-3 run that turned a three-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

Elms took that body blow and responded with a 12-2 run to tie the game at 35 on a hoop by Klatin Silva. From there, MCLA outscored Elms 7-3 to close the half with a narrow 42-38 lead.

“That was a point of emphasis at halftime. We had to buckle down on defense because I think they had 38 in the first half,” said Yearsley, “and that’s way above our goal [of points] to keep them under. We talked more, exerted a lot more on the defensive end and let the offense come to us.”

MCLA came out of the locker room and scored the first 10 points of the half. Bird hit a two to start and then drained a trey, both coming on assists by Gittens. Then off a miss, Yearsley got the rebound, threw an outlet pass to Gittens, who returned the favor and Yearsley hit a three-ball, forcing Elms coach Rob Southall to call a time out.

Elms did cut the MCLA lead to seven points twice in the half, but when Tahquell Cadle made a circus shot in the paint to cut MCLA’s lead to 58-51, the Trailblazers countered with a 19-4 run. It included eight points by Yearsley to put the game away.

“We really buckled down and really focused on getting stops, one stop at a time,” said Bird. “Going down and just finding good shots instead of getting quick ones.”

Bird was asked about the formula for this three-game winning streak. The former Drury standout did not have to think long about the question.

“It was getting stops first, finding hot hands and getting healthy,” he said. “Obviously, Noah coming back has helped our team tremendously. It impacts us in more ways than just scoring.

“He’s definitely a big attribute for us coming back.”

MCLA has one more game before the break on Saturday. The Trailblazers will play Division I UMass Lowell in Costello Athletic Center. Both MCLA and Lowell lost other games this week, MCLA’s game against Fisher was canceled as was Lowell’s game at Long Island University.

——— ELMS (67) Lopez Jr. 3-7 0-0 8, Feliciano 1-9 1-2 4, Edelen 5-16 2-2 17, Cadle 3-6 0-0 6, Silva 4-11 0-0 9, Macklin 1-2 0-0 2, Villa 0-3, 0-0 0,Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Nwanebi 0-1 0-0 0, Wilson 1-3 6-6 8, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Kimani0-2 0-0 0, Velasquez 1-1 0-0 2, Griffin 2-4 0-0 5,Mckeithen 2-7 1-1 6. Totals 23-72 10-11 67. MCLA (86) Bird 7-18 1-2 18, Gittens 7-14 0-0 14, Racette 1-2 0-0 2, Yearsley 8-18 7-14 23, Afful 3-4 0-2 6, Perez 1-3 0-0 3, Cartolano 1-1 -0 2, Diallo 2-3 0-2 4, Garcia 0-2 0-0 0, Avant 0-1 0-1 0, Kelly 1-3 0-0 2, Showers 3-6- 2-2 9, Zelazo 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 35-78 13-40. Halftime: MCLA 42-38. 3-point goals: Elms 11-33 (Lopez Jr. 2-5, Feliciano 1-6, Edelen 5-13, Silva 1-1, Villa 0-2, Griffin 1-2, Mckeithen 1-4). MCLA 13-40 (Bird 3-13, Gittens 0-1, Yearsley 7-14, Afful 0-1, Perez 1-2, Garcia 0-2, Kelly 0-1, Showers 1-3, Zelazo 1-3). Rebounds: Elms 40 (Wilson 7, Lopez Jr. 6, Edelen 6). MCLA 52 (Racette 15, Gittens 8, Diallo 8, Afful 6). Assists: Elms 14 (Lopez Jr. 7, Feliciano 6). MCLA 21 (Racette 8, Gittens 6). Turnovers: Elms 11 (Feliciano 5, Cadle 3). MCLA 11 (Yearsley 3, Afful 2). Fouls: Elms 13, MCLA 12.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.