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#1 Vikings Top #2 Owls 66-57, Claim 18th MASCAC Championship

#1 Vikings Top #2 Owls 66-57, Claim 18th MASCAC Championship

SALEM, Mass. - Sean Bryan (Lowell, Mass.) posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists to lift the #1 Salem State Vikings past the #2 Westfield State Owls 66-57 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Championship on Saturday. Bryan was named tournament MVP for his stellar performance, averaging 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 42.5% from the field a Salem State returns to the NCAA Tournament after missing in 2018.

Early in the first half, Salem State's (18-9) defense forced the Owls to take tough shots inside. Westfield State started slow from the field, shooting just 3-11 (27.2%) in the opening minutes of  the half. 

Later, Westfield State's Marcus Collins (Cambridge, Mass.) found Malik Pouncy (Mattapan, Mass.) open in the corner for three and trimming the Salem State lead to just five, 24-19 with 5:06 left in the half.

Bryan Martinez (Salem, Mass.) who had nine first-half points, sparked the Vikings late as he was fouled on a driving baseline dunk over Justin Rennis (Springfield, Mass.), making the score 26-19 with 3:17 left.   

With five seconds left in the first half, Bryan missed a three-point attempt, but Chris Macdonald (Wakefield, Mass.) fought for the rebound and put it back up and in while being fouled in the process. Macdonald converted the and-one as the Vikings led 34-24 at the half.

Both teams didn't shoot well as the Vikings converted only 38.9% (FG 14-36) of their shots while the Owls were just 28.1% (FG 9-32) from the floor. Salem State won the rebound battle in the first half with 29 to Westfield State's 18.

The Vikings limited Owls' top-scorer Jauch Green Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) to only four points on 2-7 shooting. Vawn Lord (Amherst, Mass.) put up seven points for the Owls.

Trailing by 13 points at the 18:40 mark, Westfield State began to climb back into the game when Christopher Prophet (Springfield, Mass.) dished to Collins on a fastbreak the Owls were behind by just five 39-34.

Westfield State continued to stay within striking distance. In a tightly contested second-half, Rennis grabbed the ball and was able to get a tip-in to bring the Owls to within four points as the Vikings led 50-46 with 7:53 remaining in the second half.

With 4:44 left, Westfield State was behind 54-50 as Rennis made both free-throws. On the next possession, Prophet hit a shot from behind the arc and the deficit was just one.

Leading 54-53, Salem State's Martinez proceeded to calmly drill a three to cut the Owls' momentum as the Vikings took a four-point lead at 57-53 with 2:18 remaining.

The Owls' Prophet fouled out with 52.5 seconds left as Bryan made both free throws putting the Vikings ahead 60-55 as Salem State was able to ice the game as Bryan hit six free throws in the final minute.

Martinez was impressive, tallying 16 points (FG 6-11) and seven rebounds. Hakeem Animashaun (Dedham, Mass.) finished with a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.

For Westfield State, Green Jr. had 10 points and eight rebounds. Moody Bey (Springfield, Mass.) also scored 11 points (FG 3-7).

The Owls conclude the season with a record of 16-11.

Salem State's matchup in the NCAA tournament will be announced on Monday.