By AJ Pascuzzo
With another successful season, the Bridgewater State University men’s basketball team is heading back to the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament.
Jumping off the season in non-conference play at 6-5, the Bears had a very unique start to their season. Beating, at the time, nationally ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Dec. 13, the Bears knew this year would certainly be a successful one.
Similar to last year, with a lot of up and downs, the Bears overcame their struggles with leadership from their five seniors; Forward/center Michael Lofton, point guard Justin Clark, forward Matt Daniels, guard Barrett Murphy, and forward Kyle Gibson.
“The kids have put their interests aside for the team and they do what the team needs, which has been a big difference between winning and losing especially this year,” said head coach Joe Farroba.
The Bears won the 2014 MASCAC championship last March by defeating Salem State in a nail biter.
They have the bullseye on their backs as they look to defend their title as the host of this year’s MASCAC tournament, having the advantage of playing a semifinal home game and potentially a home game for the championship, if number-one seeded Westfield State is upset in their semifinal matchup.
“It means a lot for us to have home court advantage for our first playoff game, because we know our crowd can get loud and rowdy and homecourt advantage is key when it comes to playoffs,” said senior captain Lofton. “It would mean a lot to us seniors if we got our second ring in a row, just because it would be a great way to end our careers here at Bridgewater.”
“They are willing to practice hard so they are successful for this game, which is a big need,” Farroba said. “Having experience with four seniors in the starting lineup is a huge surplus for our success.”
Key players that will immensely contribute to a Bears win is junior standout Tyler DeMelo and senior Barrett Murphy, who can both stroke the three ball.
DeMelo is the only starter in the lineup that is not a senior, averaging 8.2 points a game and playing lock down defense.
“I am excited to play in another home game for the playoffs, it’s great playing at home,” said DeMelo. “We just need to stay focused and do what we’ve been doing which is play great defense and get the ball to Lofton.”
Along with Lofton and Gibson as the main scorers, Murphy falls right behind them averaging 10.2 points a game.
Gibson and Murphy need to have tremendous offensive nights on Thursday to keep the eyes off of Lofton, who has recently been named the MASCAC men’s basketball player of the year for the 2014-15 season.
Lofton is averaging a double-double this season, scoring 18.9 points per game and grabbing 10.5 rebounds a game.
“He distributes the ball very well, which lets us run as a team which we are doing a much better job at than in the beginning of the season,” Farroba said.
There is a lot of basketball left to be played this year, the Bears are hoping. Coming off a three game win streak, they feel pretty confident going into tournament play especially with home court advantage.
Bridgewater State will try to keep their season alive on Thursday night when they host Fitchburg State in the semifinals. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
AJ Pascuzzo is a Comment staff writer.