MCLA, Williams College basketball teams diving into conference play

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For the Berkshire County college basketball teams, the next month to six weeks are really important. That's because, for the most part, the four will be playing games within their respective conferences.

So, to some extent, what Williams and MCLA have done since November won't matter a lot if they can all cruise through conference play. That, however, will not be an easy task.

MCLA men

The Trailblazers are 8-4 and 1-0 in MASCAC. Coach Derek Shell's team will bring a five-game winning streak into this week's games. It's a week where MCLA will play three conference opponents.

MCLA will be at home on Tuesday and Thursday to play Fitchburg State and Salem State. The Trailblazers will be at Framingham on Saturday.

The Trailblazers are sitting on top of the MASCAC standings as they, Westfield State and Fitchburg all have 1-0 records. MCLA and Westfield (9-5) are the only league teams sitting over the .500 mark.

Mike DeMartinis, who scored 20 points and had five assists and four rebounds in Saturday's 74-68 win at Bridgewater State, is this week's MASCAC player of the week.

That win, by the way, marked the first time that MCLA had won its MASCAC opener since beating Salem 77-72 back in 2012-13. That year, MCLA finished 14-13, and reached the conference tournament's championship game.

Here are a couple of big dates to circle on your calendar: Wednesday, Jan. 29, and Saturday, Feb. 22. That's when MCLA will play Westfield, and if both teams hold serve until then, those games could determine the top seed in the tournament. The Jan. 29 game is in the Amsler Campus Center, and the Feb. 22 game is in Westfield.

Williams men

It is going to be a busy week for Kevin App's Ephs, who go into the week 7-6. Before hosting two NESCAC rivals this weekend, the Ephs will head to Hartford, Conn., for a Tuesday night meet-up with St. Joseph's College. That's the Division III school coached by Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun.

Calhoun won his 900th career game last week, so if the Blue Jays win Tuesday, it won't be a milestone game. That could be a little advantageous for the Ephs.

After Tuesday, Williams will open its home conference schedule with games against Bowdoin on Friday night and nationally-ranked Colby on Saturday afternoon.

The Polar Bears will come in with a 5-7 record and a 1-1 conference mark, like Williams' record.

Colby is 13-0 and 2-0, and were ranked 12th in the D3hoops.com Top 25.

With a fortuitous bounce or two, Williams' record could be different. Two of their six losses were by one point, while four of the six losses were two-possession games. One game, a 10-point loss at Union, had Williams down two points with a minute to go. The Dutchmen were 7 for 8 from the foul line to lock up that win.

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Williams has to be feeling confident after hanging on for a road win against then 15th-ranked Amherst. Henry Feinberg's free throws helped secure a 72-69 win. It was the first regular-season win at Amherst since 2010.

Williams women

The Ephs have a huge test Tuesday night, which continues the roughest part of their schedule.

Three days after giving fourth-ranked Amherst all it could handle, the Ephs will host undefeated Smith in a non-league game. Then, coach Pat Manning and her squad will board a bus for a tough weekend in Maine. Williams will play at No. 2 Bowdoin Friday night and at Colby Saturday. A week from Wednesday, Williams will play at Amherst in a non-NESCAC game.

Williams came thiscloseto beating Amherst on Saturday, but the Mammoths do play some stellar defense. Amherst held Williams to five points in the third quarter as the visitors pulled away. If Manning's team can put four quarters together against its Little Three rival, there could be a victory brewing.

Amherst and Bowdoin are both 2-0 in conference play, while Williams, Connecticut College, Middlebury and Trinity are all 1-1.

Top-ranked Tufts has only played one conference game, and the 14-0 Jumbos are 1-0. Tufts hasn't missed a beat with Jill Pace replacing former UConn standout Carla Berube as head coach.

Oh, and by the way, Berube has guided Princeton to a 13-1 record. The Tigers' only loss came in overtime at Iowa back in November.

MCLA women

The last time the Trailblazers won a game, many folks were just putting their Christmas decorations up.

It's a seven-game losing streak for the Trailblazers, but the win came on Dec. 20, and that seems like eons ago.

Like the men, the MCLA women have a full week of MASCAC conference games ahead of them. Tonight, Fitchburg State visits, while Salem comes on Thursday and coach Loren Stock's Trailblazers head to Framingham Saturday. The Trailblazers head into the weekend at 2-9 and 0-1.

Forward Erika Ryan was named to the women's basketball weekly honor roll. The MCLA senior from Clifton Park, N.Y., had a 12-rebound, 11-block performance in Saturday's loss to Bridgewater State. She scored eight points in that somewhat unusual double-double.

When the Trailblazers play Fitchburg, they'll have to contend with guard Emma Thomson, who made the Honor Roll, after averaging 20 points in a 2-0 week.

Framingham State, where former Mount Everett guard Gwen Carpenter and former Monument Mountain forward Sarah Sullivan play, is 1-0 in conference play with Bridgewater. Framingham is 9-5, one of two league teams over .500. Worcester State, at 8-4, is the other.

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


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