MCLA men's basketball team rallies to win

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NORTH ADAMS — In sports, if you keep digging yourself into a hole, sometimes it's hard to climb out. Then again, sometimes it is not.

MCLA fell behind to Sage Colleges by as many as 17 points in the first half and by nine with 8:42 left. But the Trailblazers clamped down on the defensive end, holding the visitors to eight points the rest of the way as they rallied for an 87-80 win Tuesday night at the Amsler Campus Center.

"It was big for us, because we came off a tough loss from Williams and a game we should have won against Becker, late in the game on two free throws," said MCLA's Noah Yearsley, who had a game-high 20 points. "This is big for the guys. Going into the next two games, we're looking to finish out the semester."

With the win, the Trailblazers improve to 4-4. This is the earliest MCLA has won four games since opening the season 7-3 back in 2010.

It also ended a three-game losing streak against the Gators. It was the most points an MCLA team had scored in a winning effort against Sage since January 2014.

The Gators (4-4) hit six consecutive 3-point shots in the first half to take a 17-point lead before the Trailblazers cut the lead to 43-37 at halftime. At one point in the first half, Sage was 6 for 9 from outside the arc and finished up a pretty solid 7 for 17 at halftime.

"Coming into the game, the scouting report said they weren't shooting the three-ball very well," Yearsley said. Statistically, the Gators were shooting 23.6 percent from outside the arc, so what happened in the first half turned out to be way outside the mean.

"We were kind of letting them shoot, but they were hitting them, so we had to get up on them," Yearsley said. "That's what we did in the second half. That's what worked for us."

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"We had a game plan of them falling back and falling love with the three," Quran Davis said. "They have a lot of quick scorers on the wing. Once they started to prove they could shoot from the outside, we had to press up on them a little more and contain the 3-point line."

The Trailblazers used a 15-0 run late in the second half to rally from a 72-63 deficit to take a 78-72 lead. Two free throws by Yearsley with 6:02 to play in the game put MCLA up 76-74. It was the first time the Trailblazers had led all night. Ki-Shawn Monroe then scored a hoop and two free throws to put MCLA up six.

Sage clawed back, trimming the lead to three points, when Darius Denmark — who had 12 points to pace Sage — went coast-to-coast, beating the MCLA defense down court and making it 83-80.

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Former Taconic standout Quentin Gittens tried to give MCLA a five-point lead on the next possession, but he missed on a drive to the basket. Denmark, the 5-foot-6 guard who had four rebounds, got the board and Sage coach Brian Barnes called time out. Trailing by three, all the Gators needed was a 3-point shot or a 3-point play to force overtime.

But out of the time out, Quran Davis turned Denmark over. Jason Geronimo fouled Davis and the junior from New York City — who had come into the game shooting 100 percent from the line — calmly strode to the stripe, drained them both and the Trailblazers had a five-point lead with 17.4 seconds left.

"That guy was pretty quick," Davis said. "The thing was, the coaches were telling me to get as many [turnovers] as possible in the halfcourt. You get as many turns, it causes energy and energy makes more turnovers. That's what we wanted to do."

Davis had four of MCLA's 10 steals, while Monrow had three steals. The Trailblazers forced 20 turnovers.

Marius Turner locked up the game with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.

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The stat sheet tells some interesting stories. MCLA was outrebounded by 10, 45-35. Most of that came on the offensive glass, where MCLA was outrebounded 17-8. That accounted, in part for nine second-half points that helped maintain the lead for the Gators.

MCLA went to a smaller lineup down the stretch with Davis in the lineup instead of 6-foot-6 center Chris Becker. The Trailblazers also had Gittens on the floor in those final minutes. The added quickness helped dramatically.

For MCLA, Davis came off the bench to score 12 points. Monroe had 11, Hayden Bird came off the bench to get 11 points, while Gittens had eight points, four rebounds and a big blocked shot in the middle of MCLA's second-half run.

The Trailblazers were nearly perfect from the foul line, missing only four of 28 free throws.

MCLA has two more games this semester, at home Saturday against Rivier and at Elms next Tuesday.

"Every game is something we can learn from," said Davis. "Even if we lose, we have a lot to learn from the game. Defense was a big focus tonight, and I think that's what got us to come away with the win."

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


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