Berkshire County products Carpenter, Sullivan help Framingham State to win at MCLA

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NORTH ADAMS — Framingham State women's basketball coach Walter Paschal said he didn't know he was getting a package deal. But the coach, in his eighth year, is pretty happy with it.

Former Mount Everett standout Gwendolyn Carpenter had long been committed to play basketball and softball at Framingham. Sarah Sullivan, however, had other plans. But when the Williston Northampton graduate and former Monument Mountain player had a change of plans, the welcome mat was out at Framingham.

"But we're very thankful," he said. "Sarah and Gwen are best friends. We're fortunate to have her join us."

Carpenter and Sullivan are part of a seven-member freshman class at Framingham, a class that has had a hand in Framingham's perfect MASCAC conference record.

The Rams beat MCLA 79-54 on Wednesday night in the Amsler Campus Center Gym. Mary Kate O'Day had 19 points to lead Framingham in a game where there were three early lead changes and three early ties.

When Sullivan scored from the left block with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second quarter, it broke a 13-13 tie and started a 17-3 run that put Framingham ahead to stay.

Sullivan scored seven points in 15 minutes off the bench for Framingham. She also pulled down a pair of rebounds. Carpenter, meanwhile, played 18 minutes, and hit one 3-point shot out of the left corner in the game's final minute. Those were her team's, and the game's, final points.

Things did not work out for Sullivan at Assumption, and with a familiar face in Framingham, the Rams turned out to be a good landing spot for the freshman forward.

"It's good. Honestly, it's good to have someone from home," Sullivan said after the game. "We played together in AAU for a few years. Now we get to play together in college. It's awesome. We know each other. We know each other's game. It's great, because she has been with this program longer than I have, and definitely has helped push me along the way.

"I'm very grateful that Gwen's here."

The feeling is mutual.

"Early in her process, she was talking about where she wanted to go. Obviously, I was like 'Framingham.' I told her this team is so welcoming and supportive," Carpenter said. "It's unlike anything I've ever been a part of. The minute I met them, I told her 'You're going to love it here.'"

Certainly, what the Rams have done on the basketball court has given both players, and their teammates plenty to love. The Rams are currently 17-5 and 9-0 in MASCAC play. They were the preseason team to beat, and have done nothing to disappoint.

Carpenter has appeared in all 22 games for Framingham, averaging almost 15 minutes per game. She's scoring at a 3.5-point-per-game clip. The Ashley Falls resident averages 2 assists and 2 rebounds per game.

Sullivan, meanwhile, made her first appearance in a holiday tournament in Florida. Since then, the Sheffield resident has appeared in 12 games, averaging 6.7 points per game and playing nearly 17 minutes per game. She is also pulling down 4.2 boards per contest.

Sullivan scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a 100-74 win over Westfield State. In that game, Carpenter had five assists. For her part, Carpenter, had 12 points in a 72-54 loss to Brandeis early in the season.

In Wednesday's game, MCLA (2-19, 0-10) found itself down 10-5 with 3:29 left in the first quarter, and having gone without a field goal for nearly six minutes. The Trailblazers cut the lead to 10-7 on a hoop by Shannon Carney with 15 seconds left in the quarter.

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A 6-3 spurt to open the second quarter enabled MCLA to tie the game at 13-13. Former Drury standout Brooke DiGennaro, who scored 13 points off the bench, got behind the Framingham defense on a fast break.

Sullivan answered from the left block, giving Framingham a 15-13 lead, and the Rams never trailed again.

Four Framingham players scored in double figures. After O'Day's 19, Emily Velozo had 17, Flannery O'Connor 11 and Krysta Padellaro had 10.

MCLA was paced by Hannah Mazzeo's 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kylah Langston chipped in with 10 points.

"We have a really good group of seniors and upperclassmen, who have helped with the transition from high school to college," Carpenter said. "It's definitely a different game — faster. I'm having a lot of fun and I really love it."

While Carpenter was with the Rams from Day 1, Sullivan came in later, and went on the road to Florida. She described it in glowing terms.

"For me personally, it was huge," she said. "I had down time to just hang with the team, went to Universal [Studios park], create friendships and bonds with everyone. It was probably the most important thing, even though we were playing basketball, was getting to know my teammates before going to school [in January] and just showing up was definitely a help."

Sullivan said it has been a gradual process to develop her role and her skill set with Framingham.

"We're figuring out where he needs me, how he needs me in the game," she said. "He's definitely straight-forward with what he wants, so depending on the game, we could go big, we could go one post. We go day-by-day."

"She has great hands. She can finish inside. She can shoot the three," Paschal said of Sullivan. "She's just very talented."

Sullivan wore her familiar 33, but Carpenter looked a little different. That's because instead of the No. 4 that she wore throughout her Mount Everett tenure, she's decked out in 44.

"They don't have 4. I don't know what happened," Carpenter said. "There was no No. 4 uniform, so I figured I had to pick something with the 4 in it."

Paschal said he's been thrilled with what Carpenter has brought to the table for his team.

"She struggled a little bit today, for whatever reason. But she's so smart out there," the Framingham coach said. "She's great with the ball, shifty, and she's only going to get better and better."

One of the more interesting side plots of Wednesday's game was when Carpenter had to guard DiGennaro. It's the first time they had to do it since Carpenter was at Mount Everett and DiGennaro was at Drury.

"It was kind of the same thing with Westfield [State] and Alie [Mendel]," Carpenter said. "The Berkshire County kids, we were covering each other since we were literally in elementary school. It's fun to be at the next level, on our own teams and still competing with each other."

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


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