BRIDEGWATER, Mass. - #3 Fitchburg State was ousted from the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) tournament, falling in overtime to the second-seeded Bridgewater State University, 93-85 on Thursday night at the Tinsley Center.
The Bears (18-7) advance to the MASCAC Championship Game on Saturday at #1 Westfield State University. The top-seeded Owls posted a 96-75 win over #4 Salem State University in the other semifinal round contest.
Fitchburg State falls to 15-12 with the setback, a 13 win improvement from just a year ago.
The Bears held a 40-34 advantage at the break despite Armstrong's 17 first-half points.
Keyon Armstrong keyed a 14-3 Fitchburg run early in second half as the Falcons erased an eight-point deficit (42-34) to take a 48-45 lead. Armstrong scored ten points during the spurt.
The Bears answered with seven straight points to reclaim the lead. A Lofton traditional three-point play tied the game, while Clark followed with a lay-up and Murphy drained a pair of free throws to give the hosts a 52-48 lead at the 13:21 mark.
The Bears did not trail again in regulation but also led by no more than five points.
Leading by just two late in the game, Lofton made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:57 remaining to give the Bears a 72-69 lead. Anthony Muccioli made 1 of 2 at the line on the Falcons' ensuing possession to make it a two-point game, 72-70. Following a missed BSU three-pointer, Troy DaCosta knocked down a lay-up off a nice feed from Armstrong to knot the score at 72-72 with 35 seconds left in regulation.
Out of time-out, the Bears had a chance to win the game but Lofton was unable to convert with time ticking down as the game headed to overtime.
In the extra session, a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Fawaz Mass was answered by an Armstrong lay-up. Lofton then made 1 of 2 at the line to put the Bears up 75-74.
Givaughn Jones drove strong to the hoops to give their Falcons their first lead since early in the second half. That lead was short-lived however as Gibson nailed a three-pointer to put the Bears back on top, 78-76. Following a stop, Gibson converted a pair of free throws to increase the BSU advantage to 80-76 with 2:56 remaining. Two possessions later, Lofton made 1 of 2 at the stripe to make it an 81-76 game.
The Falcons would not go down without a fight as Armstrong drove to the hoop for a lay-up, was fouled and converted the free throw to cut the deficit to 81-79. But Mass answered with a jumper to put BSU back up by four, 83-79.
Sophomore forward Jalen Williams made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:17 remaining, but Lofton converted a huge driving lay-up with the shot clock winding down as the Bears upped their advantage to 85-80 with just 49 seconds showing on the scoreboard. A quick layup by Jones was answered by a pair of free throws by McGuinness with 35 seconds left to put an end to any hope for the Green & Gold.
Fitchburg State's Armstrong led all players with a career-high 36 points. Armstrong was on fire all game as he was 11 for 15 from the floor, including 7-for-11 from three-point range, as well as a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line.
Senior forward Michael Lofton poured in a career-high 33 points in the win, while also connecting on 13 of 18 field goal attempts, and finishing with 12 rebounds as he recorded his eighth consecutive double-double and 14th of the season. Senior forward Kyle Gibson added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Bears, while senior guards Justin Clark and Barrett Murphy chipped in with 11 points apiece.
COURTESY OF BSU SID OFFICE