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Top-Seeded Fitchburg State Dispatches #5 Westfield State 96-65 to Advance to the MASCAC Championship Game

Top-Seeded Fitchburg State Dispatches #5 Westfield State 96-65 to Advance to the MASCAC Championship Game

FITCHBURG, Mass. – The top-seeded Fitchburg State University men's basketball team coasted to a 96-65 victory in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) semi-finals on Thursday against fifth-seeded Westfield State University at Parkinson Gymnasium at the Rec Center.

The Falcons will take on the second-seeded Salem State Vikings in the MASCAC Championship game on Saturday February 27th at Fitchburg State with a 1:00 p.m. tip-off.

Senior forward Kwame Lee ended with a game-high 19 points and junior guard Jaleel Bell contributed 15 points while junior guard Lance Hill finished the contest with a bench-high 14 points for the Green and Gold.

For Westfield State, junior guard Jose Allen dropped a team-high 12 points while junior forward Shane Pasquantino and junior guard Jesus Sanchez contributed 10 apiece during their team's final game of the season.

Fitchburg State controlled the opening tip-off, but after missing its shot on the first possession, junior guard Leonny Burgos swiped the ball on the defensive side before taking it to the rack for the first two points of the game.

After Westfield State got on the board with a jumper by junior guard Sanchez, the hosts went on an 11-4 run. The run was sparked by back-to-back buckets from Bell, the MASCAC Player of the Year, followed by back-to-back baskets from Lee, the last coming with contact for the and-one. (13-7).

The Green and Gold then went on to edge the visitors on the next string of possessions, as the Falcons scored seven to Westfield's six, and pushed the score to 20-12 before the Owls called their first time-out with 11:42 left in the opening frame.

Following the time-out, Fitchburg State controlled the pace of play, outscoring Westfield State 9-6 and forcing another time-out by the visitors at 6:22 and trailing 34-25.

After the 30-second break, the Falcons continued the momentum as Burgos stole the ball in the paint and pushed it up to senior wing Jones for the finish on the other end. That play sparked a 14-8 Falcon run to close out the first half, as sophomore guard Josh Bosworth snatched the ball away with five seconds left and slammed it home as time expired (48-32).

Following intermission, Westfield State opened the second-half scoring as Sanchez nailed a lay-up with contact, hitting the and-one from the stripe, and after a Fitchburg State miss, the Owls converted on back-to-back possession as Allen hit his second triple of the contest from the corner.

Fitchburg State quickly responded as Lee, after spending much of the first-half in foul trouble, knocked down consecutive three-pointers to push the Falcon lead back up to 14 points before Allen came back with a three on the other side for the Owls (54-43).

Following a Fitchburg 30-second time-out with 15:23 left in the game, Bell knocked down another triple to give the Falcons a 16-point lead, but the visitors kept hanging around with the three ball as Austin Joseph came right back with one for Westfield State (62-48).

At the 10:12 mark the visitors called another 30-second time-out, but coming out of the break it was Fitchburg State that would pull away as the Falcons proceeded to go on a 16-5 run over a five-minute span to push the hosts' lead to 21 points (82-61).

Over the final four minutes of the contest, Fitchburg State continued its control of the game, posting a 14-6 scoring drive and closing out the game with the commanding 96-65 win.

Throughout the contest Fitchburg State shot 32-of-65 from the field (49.2%) while knocking down 6-of-13 from beyond the arc (46.2%) and hitting free-throws at a 26-of-37 rate (70.3%).

Westfield State finished 25-of-59 from the floor (42.4%) while hitting 7-of-13 from long range (53.8%) and knocking down 8-of-16 from the charity stripe (50%).

Fitchburg State maintained the slightest advantage on the glass, out-rebounding Westfield State 40-39 on the boards with 25 rebounds coming on the defensive end for the Falcons.

The Green and Gold controlled the hustle stats throughout the win, getting 26 points off of turnovers to go with 18 points from second chances, while Westfield State ended with eight points off mistakes and 14 from second opportunities. 

Release courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Kyle Prudhomme