By Liam Gambon
The Framingham State Rams took on MCLA in the MASCAC semifinals in a last-second thriller.
MCLA held the lead after the first, up 18-17. Framingham then took the lead into the half, up 27-26.
The third quarter ended in a deadlock, with the game tied at 44, which led to a thrilling back-and-forth final quarter with the stakes at their highest.
Framingham started the fourth quarter sluggish, as MCLA went on a 6-0 run to open the final period, but the Rams punched back. After tying the game at 50, Framingham went up by five with just over two and a half minutes left to play.
A couple of missed layups and a missed three left the door cracked for MCLA and it cut the lead to 57-56 with 1:26 left to play.
At that point, MCLA employed the “hack-a-Shaq” strategy, intentionally fouling Monta Connolly and sending her to the line for two. She missed both.
With 34 seconds left, Courtney Pingelski looked like she’d be the hero, burying a 3-pointer and giving the underdog Trailblazers a two-point lead.
Framingham’s chance to answer ended with another pair of missed free throws, this time by Tiphani Harris, but the ensuing inbound would prove to be costly for MCLA. A great trap on Ashley Clawson led to a Connolly steal and set the stage for Raegan Mulherin to play hero.
Out of the timeout, Mulherin was inbounded the ball on what looked like a broken play from the start. She took her dribble towards the corner, rose awkwardly over the defender and drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with two seconds left on the game clock, sending the Framingham crowd into a frenzy.
MCLA’s full court heave came up short and the Rams secured their trip to the MASCAC championship for a second straight year.
The Rams production was headed by the consistently efficient Alycia Rackliffe, who posted 17 points and 11 rebounds for another double double. Rackliffe also contributed on the defensive end with two blocks and three steals. Sarah Palace was just behind Rackliffe in scoring with 12 points. She also contributed four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Mulherin dumped in 10 points on the night. Connolly also contributed with seven points, five rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. Quinn O’Connell led the bench with six points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
The Rams benefited from their points off turnovers as they racked up 23 to MCLA’s 11.
The Framingham State Rams faced off against Westfield State for the third time this season but this time it was for the MASCAC championship. The Rams and Westfield were tied in the season series at one win a piece heading into this matchup.
The stage was set for a MASCAC championship rematch after the Rams squeaked by MCLA two nights before and Westfield knocked off Bridgewater State. The Rams looked to avenge their championship loss from last year, when they fell 92-86 at the hands of the Owls.
Westfield controlled the game early, leading 22-21 at the end of the first. That lead grew to 42-36 by halftime.
Framingham mounted a comeback, cutting the lead to 63-62 at the end of the third. Westfield and Framingham would trade leads in the fourth, with Westfield gaining the lead with 29 seconds left and holding on to it, claiming its second straight MASCAC championship by a score of 83-74.
Framingham was hurt by foul trouble all afternoon and could never impose its will the way it wanted to as a result.
The Rams were led in scoring by Rackliffe who posted 20 points while also pulling down 11 rebounds. She came up big defensively with a steal and six blocks, but was one of the Rams plagued by foul trouble.
Mulherin put up 10 points, pulled in six boards and had two steals. Palace contributed 10 points on the afternoon. Connolly came away with eight points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal. Lauren Donahue recorded seven points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
The Rams finished the season 21-5, set the school record for wins in a season and will look to redeem their lost championship next season.