SALEM, Mass. – Hakeem Animashaun (Dedham, Mass.) poured in 33 points and Sean Bryan (Lowell, Mass.) totaled 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists as Salem State clinched the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) regular season title for the 28th time with a 108-97 victory over Bridgewater State on Wednesday evening in Twohig Gymnasium. Animashaun went 12-17 (70.5%) from the field, topping the 30-point mark for the fifth time this season as Salem State raises its record to 15-8 overall and 9-1 in the MASCAC. Rayshon Ward (Fayetteville, N.C.) topped all scorers with 36 points on 15-23 (65.2%) shooting for the Bears, who slip to 6-15 and 4-5 in the league.
Both teams were efficient from the offensive end in the first half, shooting a combined 61.1% from the field. 13 lead changes highlighted the first half as neither team managed to build an advantage larger than five points. With the game tied 26-26, five straight points by Ward gave Bridgewater State a 33-28 lead with 10:39 left in the first. Animashaun – 17 first half points and Bryan – 16 first half points, helped erase the deficit as a bucket by Animashaun and two Bryan free throws put the Vikings back on top 43-40 at the 5:45 mark. The two teams exchanged baskets into the stretch before a layup by Temitope Bailey (West Springfield, Mass.) put Salem State ahead 54-50 at the break.
Evan Mason (Gloucester, Mass.) provided a spark for the Vikings with seven first half points on 3-of-3 shooting. Ward, who went 8-10 (80%) from the floor paced the Bears with 17 points before intermission. Dimitri St. Louis (Brockton, Mass.) and Admar Jaramillo (Brockton, Mass.) each tallied nine points for Bridgewater State.
Salem State and Bridgewater State continued their hot hand into the second half, as the Vikings clung to a one-point lead, 60-59 following two free throws by Ryan Carney (Easton, Mass.). However, Salem State, which connected on 53.7% of their shots in the second half, began to pull away, as a 13-0 run highlighted by an Animashaun dunk put Salem State ahead 73-59 with 13:48 left.
The Bears tried to keep pace, cutting the lead to nine, 81-72 following a Carney free throw, but once again the Vikings responded with a 15-6 surge, to go up by 18 points, 96-78 with 6:57 remaining. Mason, who finished with a career-high 16 points, hit a layup with 6:18 left, allowing Salem State to hit the century mark for the fourth time this year. The lead remained in double digits before the Vikings settled for a 108-97 win.
Alex De La Rosa (Boston, Mass.) scored 10 points for Salem State while Bailey added eight points and nine rebounds.
Ward finished with 15 rebound in addition to his 36 points and added three blocks. St. Louis had 16 points while Carney ended with 12 for the Bears. Nick Crocker (East Falmouth, Mass.) chipped in with 10 points for Bridgewater State, which ended the game 39-77 (50.6%) from the field.