Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – A last-second foul and free throws from senior Jesus Sanchez (Springfield, Mass.) lifted Westfield State to an 85-83 victory over Men's Basketball in a non-conference tip at Picknelly Arena Wednesday night. The Blazers slide to 4-17 on the season, while the Owls rise to 8-16 overall.
The Blazers controlled the scoreboard early in the first half using three-pointers from junior Keeshaun King (Jacksonville, Fla.) and freshman DeAngelo Cousar (Bowie, Md.) to develop a 15-7 lead at the 13:14 mark. The Owls responded with treys from senior Jose Allen (Amherst, Mass.) and sophomore Peter Mafo (Lynn, Mass.) to trim the gap to 17-13, but the Blazers pushed the lead to double digits behind seven points from senior Symon Smith (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 27-13 with 8:13 on the clock. Elms outscored the Owls 9-6 over the final minutes behind a pair of three-pointers from Cousar to take a 36-19 lead into the break.
Elms grabbed their largest lead of the game as senior Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.) converted off a feed from classmate Trifon Bish (St. Catherine, Jamaica) in the paint to hand the Blazers a 42-24 lead. The Owls battled back over the next seven minutes, orchestrating an 18-8 run, powered by eight points from Sanchez, to whittle the gap to single digits, 50-42, with 11:00 on the clock. Westfield State continued to chug along as a three-point play from Allen put the Owls within a possession, 54-51, at the 6:53 mark. The Blazers maintained their edge with buckets from Smith and Ihearahu, but the Owls stayed close with drives from Sanchez and Mafo to make it 62-59 with 1:03 to play. After a pair of free throws from Smith gave Elms a 64-61 advantage with 17 seconds to go, the Owls forced overtime as sophomore Cam Earle (South Hadley, Mass.) buried a three-pointer from the corner to knot the score at 64-64.
The squads traded baskets to begin the first bonus period, and then Earle drew a foul on a three-point attempt and connected on all three free throws to put Westfield State ahead 70-68 with 2:13 left. Buckets from Fernandez and Bish regained the lead for the Blazers, followed by free throws from Smith to give Elms the 74-70 advantage. With less than 10 seconds to play, Owls sophomore Marcus Collins (Cambridge, Mass.) put back an offensive rebound, and then scored on a last-second inbound play following a Blazers turnover to send the game to a second overtime tied at 74-74.
The Owls grabbed the lead to start the second overtime as five points from Mafo handed the Owls an 81-77 with 2:38 on the clock. The Blazers rallied behind six points from Smith over the next two minutes to even the score at 83-83. On the final possession of the contest, Sanchez drove the lane in the final seconds and drew a foul with .2 remaining and connected on the game-winning free throws to lift the Owls to the 85-83 win.
The Blazers had four scorers in double figures, paced by a game-high 28 points from Smith, shooting 7-of-15 form the field and 12-of-13 from the foul line. Smith added a game-high seven assists with four rebounds and two steals. Ihearahu and Cousar both registered double-doubles with Cousar tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds and Ihearahu grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds with 14 points. Bish netted 15 points with four assists and three rebounds, while Fernandez contributed eight rebounds and seven points off the bench.
Sanchez powered the Owls with a team-high 23 points, converting 9-of-16 from the field, seven rebounds and three assists. Mafo filled the stat sheet with 19 points, six steals, four assists and three rebounds. Allen registered 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, while junior Allister Williams (Boston, Mass.) had 10 points and three assists in the win.
The Blazers dominated the glass, 49-33, while the Owls converted 23 points off turnovers to 12 by Elms. The Blazers connected on 43.8% (28-of-64) from the field, including 26.1% (6-of-23) from three-point, and 75% (21-of-28) from the foul line. Westfield State shot 45.1% (32-of-71) from the floor, 29.4% (10-of-34) from three-point range, and 52.4% (11-of-21) from the free throw stripe.
The Blazers will be back in action when they host Regis College in a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) clash at Picknelly Arena Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Westfield State travels to Salem State for a Massachusetts Small College Athletic Conference (MASCAC) tilt Saturday at 1:00 p.m.