|Mass-Boston has had plenty to celebrate entering Wednesday night's game against Mass-Dartmouth, including a program best 13-game winning streak.
Mass-Boston athletics photo
By Matt Noonan
Kristina Baugh knew something had to change. But little did she know that a few tweaks to the Mass-Boston women’s basketball program over the past few months, including a new culture and outlook for the program would help her Beacons become the team to beat in the Little East Conference (LEC) this winter.
“It’s been a great (season thus far) and as far as every night goes, we have had a different player step up and make plays, and I think that’s what makes us dangerous,” said Baugh, who is in her third season with the Beacons.
“We have a deep bench and again, I think that’s what makes us dangerous, but it has been a lot of fun.”
As of this past weekend, Mass-Boston has appeared unstoppable – they have won an impressive and program-best 13 consecutive contests, including five consecutive LEC match-ups.
And one of those LEC wins happened to occur earlier this month against Eastern Connecticut– the victory marked the first time Mass-Boston had defeated the Warriors since 2013. The Beacons have also beaten MIT (10-5) which is in contention for the NEWMAC title.
The team’s current momentum will be tested this week when they tip-off against Mass-Dartmouth. The Corsairs (11-3, 5-0) started the season ranked No. 18 and two of their three losses are against No. 4 Bowdoin and No. 8 Tufts. Mass-Dartmouth also beat Colby by 25 the day after the White Mules handed Mass-Boston its only loss of the season.
While the Beacon's winning streak is impressive, one may not know that it has been fueled by 13 first-year players, including Joie Grassi, who leads the squad in points (257) and rebounds (110). Grassi has been honored by the LEC three times this season, earning a trio of Rookie of the Week honors.
In addition to Grassi, Mass-Boston has also received some impressive contributions from first-years Megan Dixon and Shania Osborne. The play of these first-years has certainly inspired the squad’s upperclassmen, including senior Raven Kelsey, who is currently third on the team in points per game (8.7), but second in rebounds per game (7.2).
“The competition is real,” said Kelsey, who was named second-team all conference last winter. “When I saw them get here and from playing pick-up with them, (my classmates and I realized) that everyone can go, everyone can score, so I know that definitely kept me on my toes.”
Baugh knew these first-years would make an impact on the program, but this quickly?
“In my three years in Division III, I don’t know if I have ever seen this number of freshmen getting this amount of time and having this much success, so it is a just shout out to a lot of hard work,” she said.
“I believed in every kid that I was recruiting in their talents and potential – let’s be honest, in recruiting you recruit potential, so I am just blessed they believed me in me and their parents believed in what we are trying to do here with changing the culture and now they’re a part of history. Hopefully we can continue this road down glory lane.”
With 13 first-years leading the pack, Mass-Boston is thinking optimistically about capping its season with some hardware or at least an invite to the ‘big dance’ in March.
Of course, there is a lot of basketball left to be played, but with the way this team is playing, how could one not think more excitement is to come for the Beacons?
Said senior Lydia Vital, “In the LEC preseason poll, they had us ranked fifth, but I think being able to be number one team in our conference (when the regular season concludes) and essentially winning the LEC championship is definitely a big goal. We are certainly on the way to making that happen.”
Extra, Extra from New England
In case you missed it, Endicott College and Roger Williams played an epic double-overtime game this past weekend with the Gulls defeating the Hawks, 114-109.
Endicott’s Keith Brown netted a program-record 53 points in the win – he connected on 18 of 34 shots from the field, while sinking 13 of 17 shots at free throw line. Brown’s 53 points broke Kamahl Walker’s single-game record of 47 points scored against Keene State (Nov. 15, 2015).
As noted in the game release, “Brown’s 53-point effort is the most ever in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. His 53 points also rank as the third highest single-game total among all NCAA Divisions this season.
Roger Williams received a boost from Austin Coene who concluded the contest with 38 points (12 of 19 from the field and three of three from beyond the arc).
The New England College men’s basketball team also scored an exciting win this past Saturday as they defeated Husson University, 84-82. The Eagles entered the contest undefeated in North Atlantic Conference (NAC) play. New England’s Jason Jones led the Pilgrims with 16 points and 13 rebounds, which helped the Pilgrims bump their overall record to 10-4 and 6-1 in NAC play.
After the game concluded, coach Charlie Mason praised his team for staying together down the stretch, especially when “the game got tight at the end.”
“We played together as a team and picked up a quality win over an undefeated NAC team,” Mason said, via the game’s recap.
Last Friday was an exciting evening in Maine for the Bates College women’s basketball team, which held off Middlebury by a score of 60-57. Nina Davenport led all scorers with 16 points, while Julia Middlebrooks helped the Bobcats secure the win with a triple late in the fourth quarter. The loss snapped a four-game skid for the Bobcats.
The MIT men’s basketball team has two big games this week. The first contest is against a talented Springfield squad on Wednesday with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m. On Saturday the Engineers will head to Babson to face the Beavers in a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Tournament final rematch. Entering the week those are the only undefeated teams in the conference.
The Wheaton Mass.) women’s basketball team won the ‘Battle of the Lyons’ this past weekend – both Wheaton and Mount Holyoke were founded by Mary Lyon, so both mascots are named after her. Wheaton topped Mount Holyoke, 81-48, thanks to a team-high 14 points from Mikayla Pucci. Sarah McLeman add 14 points in the win.
Pucci is having a great first season with the Blue and White - the Hopkinton, Massachusetts native is averaging a team-best 13.1 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game. On Monday, Pucci was tabbed the New England Women’s Basketball Association Rookie of the Week, while WPI’s Ama Biney earned the Player of the Week award.
Finally, it was great to see Anthony Hodges compete this past Saturday for Salem State – his story is extremely inspirational.
Told following a horrendous car accident three years ago that he had less than a five percent chance to walk again, Hodges defied the odds and returned to the hardwood last Wednesday when the Vikings beat Fitchburg State 80-63. Salem State head coach Chris Harvey tweeted the following about his return shortly after the win: “Anthony Hodges was told 2½ years ago he would never walk again. Tonight, he played college basketball. What a spirit. What determination. #NeverQuit.”
Against Framingham State this past Saturday, Hodges sank his initial basket of the season late in the second half. Once the ball went through the net his teammates, along with Harvey and the coaching staff cheered. It was a great moment in a season full of them for the Vikings.