By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater State University basketball teams will be home to open the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournaments.
The Bears will be playing a doubleheader on Tuesday night at the Tinsley Center with the fourth-seeded men's team hosting fifth-seeded Framingham State University at 5:30 p.m. and the third-seeded women's team taking on sixth-seeded Fitchburg State University at 7:30 p.m.
The winners of those games advance to the semifinal round on Thursday night with the championships to be decided on Saturday afternoon.
Bridgewater State Men: The Bears (8-17) went 6-6 in the MASCAC and finished a game ahead of Framingham State (6-18 overall, 5-7 conference) to gain home-court advantage. Bridgewater State is the defending champion of the tourney.
The teams split two games in the regular season with the Rams winning at home on Jan. 19, 73-64, and BSU surviving in overtime at home, 87-80, on Feb. 9.
The Bears began the season by losing nine of the first 10 games, then ended the season with four losses in the last six games.
"It's a fresh start," said coach Joe Farroba. "No matter how your season has gone so far, you could find yourself playing for an opportunity to go to the NCAAs on Saturday."
BSU has emerged as the No. 4 seed to win the MASCAC tournament on four occasions. "So I know it can be done," said Farroba.
Rayshon Ward, a Plymouth North graduate, has led the Bears, averaging a double-double (17 points, 10.6 rebounds).
"He's been fairly consistent," said Farroba. "To average 17 and 10, that's pretty good stuff.″
Ryan Carney of Easton is scoring 16.9 points per game and is within 20 points of 1,000 in his career while Nick Crocker is scoring 10.3 points and freshman Admar Jaramillo of Brockton has contributed 8.3 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals.
The Bears have struggled on the defensive end for much of the season, allowing 82.5 points per game.
"We've been consistently inconsistent," said Farroba. "We have moments where we look really good. But we have defensive lapses, moments where we don't dig in and play good defense. That's been a real problem."
Framingham State has just one double-digit scorer in senior Emmanuel Payton, who scores 22.5 points per game.
The BSU-Framingham State winner travels to top-seeded Salem State for the semifinal round.
Bridgewater State Women: The Bears also got off to a slow start, going 1-6, but they are 12-6 since Dec. 6.
"I think when you start off 1-6, you start to question, 'Are we going to hit double figures in wins?'" said coach Bridgett Casey. "Starting as slow as we did, you start to think about it.
"But you have to keep putting in the hard work and we did and we got a little bit better and got a couple of wins and our confidence level went up. We began trusting each other."
The Bears, who are 7-3 at home, played their best basketball of the season down the stretch when they won six of seven games with the lone loss coming to top-seeded Worcester State.
Bridgewater State swept the season series from Fitchburg State (9-16, 2-10 MASCAC), winning on the road on Jan. 24, 71-65, and again at home on Saturday in the regular-season finale, 89-61. The Falcons have won just once in the last 11 games.
"It's always hard to face a team for a third time in the season, especially for the second time in a few days," said Casey. "But we had a good game plan against them and defensively we played well, so we hope we can continue that."
Olivia DelGrosso (11.3 points) and Kailyn Aguiar (11 points, nine rebounds) are the top two scorers for the Bears.
Other key players are Sara DaSilva (9.8 points, 4.4 assists) and reserves Destiny Fitzgerald (7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds) and Danielle Arcidiacono.(6.3 points).
The BSU-Fitchburg winner will be at second-seeded Westfield State for the semifinal round on Thursday night. The Bears are seeking their first conference tourney title since 2015.