By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University women’s basketball team ended the regular season on a roll, going 6-1 down the stretch.
There was no letting up when the Bears opened the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament on Tuesday night at the Tinsley Center.
Third-seeded Bridgewater State was in control from start to finish and had little trouble eliminating sixth-seeded Fitchburg State University, 89-68, in the quarterfinal round.
The Bears (14-12) will now play at second-seeded Westfield State University (16-9) in the semifinal round on Thursday night. The teams split a pair of regular-season games, each winning on the road.
Bridgewater State’s rout of Fitchburg State (9-17) came on a night when the Bears’ three leading scorers plus a top reserve remained on the bench throughout the first half in a disciplinary move.
“Coach’s decision just to sit out four (seniors), basically,” said coach Bridgett Casey, who inserted those four players during the third quarter. “The new starting five stepped up and I thought in the second half the upperclassmen came in and did their job.”
Sophomore Destiny Fitzgerald, making her second start of the season, led the Bears with 18 points on 8 for 12 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Freshman Olivia Dziadyk added 13 points with three 3-pointers while Nicole Bostick, Kayla Carter and Danielle Arcidiacono added nine points each.
BSU raced to a 13-0 lead and was ahead, 27-6, after one quarter as Dziadyk scored 13 of her team’s first 15 points, hitting those three 3-pointers. The advantage widened to 33-6 early in the second quarter before the Bears took a 45-20 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Falcons got as close as 15 points in the third quarter, but BSU answered with nine straight points to pull away and move into the semifinal round.
“It was a great game for us from start to finish,” said Casey. “They came ready to play. The starters that were in there did a great job. They set the tone. It was like cruise control the whole first half, which was nice.
“It was a great team win. They moved the ball around a lot. We forced them to take some rushed shots, make them miss. We were very unselfish. A couple of times I think all five people touched the ball. They were ready to go.
“I was very happy for them (the new starters) and how they came out and responded. The future looks very bright.”
Bridgewater State swept three games from the Falcons and defeated Fitchburg State in the regular-season finale by 28 points just last Saturday afternoon.
“It’s always tough to beat a team three times,” said Casey. “They’ve got great shooters. But I think we forced them into a pace they didn’t want to play.”
The Bears lost at home to Westfield State, 77-68, on Jan. 12 but won on the road, 69-65, on Feb. 2.
The Owls average the most points (88.1) nationally in Division 3, but were held under that number twice by the BSU defense. The Bears can make it to the MASCAC final by staying on their late-season roll.
“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” said Casey. “We’ve got a long 40 minutes ahead. It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to take all 40 minutes. Hopefully we can start the game like we did tonight.”