By Greg Dudek
Winning one championship is hard enough, but winning four in a row puts you on a whole other level.
The Bridgewater State University women’s basketball team made history Saturday at the Tinsley Center when they captured their fourth straight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament title with a 73-66 win over Framingham State University.
“It’s truly special,” said Bridgewater State head coach Bridgett Casey. “Somewhere that I didn’t think we would be looking back 10 years ago. You know, one is special, and then it gets back-to-back. And now this is just truly amazing.”
The Lady Bears now advance to the NCAA Div. III Tournament, where they will take on the University of Scranton in first round action on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Senior guard Jenna Williamson led the way yet again for Bridgewater State against the Rams, as she poured in a game-high 27 points to earn tournament MVP honors for the second consecutive season.
“Just thinking about it the past week that it’s my senior year, it could be my last game, so I went in knowing I was going to shoot if I was open,” Williamson said. “I was going to do everything I could to not regret anything. I just played like I knew I could.”
The Bears and Rams traded shots early on in the first half, as neither team could gain an advantage. With five minutes remaining in the first half and the game deadlocked at 22, Williamson got things going with one of her five three-pointers in the game.
Williamson’s three sparked an 11-1 Bridgewater State run to close out the half and gave the Bears a 33-23 halftime lead.
Framingham State would not go away easily though, as they began the second half on a 9-0 run to narrow Bridgewater State’s advantage to 33-32.
The Rams were able to take the lead, 41-40 with 13:05 left in regulation, but they could not hold on to it.
The Lady Bears answered with a 10-0 run to go up 50-41 and they never looked back.
“I kept using our experience being in this big game for the fourth time now in a row,” Casey said. “I kept using that and kept talking about it. We’ve been here before. They are a great team, they are going to put runs on. And we just knew how to counter that run. We did a great job doing that.”
Freshman forward Jennie Lindland exploded in the second half, scoring 16 of her 18 points over the final 20 minutes of play. For her performance, Lindland was named MASCAC Women’s Basketball Co-Rookie of the Week.
“The future looks very bright for her,” Casey said. “Just getting that experience now playing with those seniors and seeing what we can do, I think she is going to take that to the next level. Her motor doesn’t stop and if I can just get her to run, run, run all game, I think that is going to be in our next game plan.”
Bridgewater State did receive a scare in the final minutes of the game, as the Rams went on a 8-0 run to close the deficit to 69-66.
Framingham State had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but could not come up with a basket and a key offensive rebound by senior guard Elisha Homich and then free throws by Williamson with 12 seconds left sealed the championship.
“I am so excited to be able to do it with this team,” Williamson said. “They’re a great group of girls on and off the court. They worked so hard from October to now. Basketball is such a long season, and we all got through it together. It’s exciting to know it all paid off.”
After some ups-and-downs in the middle of the regular season, the Bears were able to put it all together once the postseason came around.
In the semifinal round last Thursday, the Lady Bears cruised past Salem State University, 88-62, behind a school-record 36 points from Williamson.
And then everything clicked again in the championship game. Williamson scored at will, Homich filled the stat sheet with six points, seven assists, and 10 rebounds, and Lindland rose to the occasion by having her best performance as a Bear.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings I have ever felt,” Lindland said. “I have never won a championship. It was really good to win with this team, we are all very close. It is an amazing feeling.”
Now, Bridgewater State will head into the NCAA Tournament where they have lost in the first round the past three seasons.
The Lady Bears know their past history in the NCAA Tournament and want to make it irrelevant with a win in the big dance this season.
“We want to get at least a win out of NCAAs,” Williamson said. “I know we can do it. It just starts off with our defense and just stay calm and keep our composure. We’ll be fine.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.