By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The regular season ended on a down note for the Bridgewater State University women’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon.
The Bears were upset by sixth-place Fitchburg State University, a team they had defeated by 20 points last month.
The chance to avenge that loss came just three days later, and Bridgewater State took full advantage of the opportunity.
The Bears took control of the Falcons early with a 20-0 first-quarter run on the way to a 67-47 victory in the quarterfinal round of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament on Tuesday night at the Tinsley Center.
Third-seeded BSU (11-15) travels to second-seeded Framingham State (15-9) in the semifinal round Thursday at 6 p.m.
Defense was the key to the Bears’ turnaround against Fitchburg State, which was limited to 26 percent shooting and turned the ball over 24 times, resulting in 22 BSU points.
“We watched a lot of film (Monday) and we broke down almost every defensive possession that didn’t happen on Saturday against these guys,″ said Bears coach Bridgett Casey. “It was all within our control what we needed to do. It was very important for us to set the tempo right off the bat.″
BSU certainly did that, scoring 20 unanswered points over a span of 4:37 in the opening quarter.
That turned a 10-4 deficit into a 24-10 Bears’ lead, and the Falcons (9-17) were never a threat the rest of the way.
Chanelle Melton of Brockton, in perhaps her final home game, led Bridgewater State with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes.
Jennifer Whyte added 12 points and six rebounds and Rhianna Page grabbed eight rebounds to go with two steals.
The Bears smothered Fitchburg State with an aggressive defense in the first quarter when the Falcons had eight turnovers, four of them via steals.
“For us, starting well and getting separation and not having any letdowns was big for us,″ said Casey. “We showed some toughness and we pushed the ball extremely well.″
Bridgewater State was in front, 26-12, after one quarter and extended the margin to 40-22 by halftime and 56-29 going into the fourth quarter.
“It’s team defense, that’s what you need,″ said Casey.
The Bears were glad to get another game against Fitchburg State right after losing the regular season finale. They are now 51-15 all-time against the Falcons, including 4-1 in tourney games.
“We were pretty defeated after that,″ said Casey. “We had a chance to go 5-1 in the second (half) of the MASCAC after starting 2-4. But everything that happened in that game, it was us.
“We missed 11 foul shots in a one possession game. As bad as we played defensively, we still had a chance and should have still won.″
Bridgewater State went 0-2 against second-seeded Framingham State, losing 87-77, in January and 70-57 earlier this month.
“If we play with that defensive effort we had tonight, it’s going to be a game, we’re going to be in the game,″ said Casey. “It’s tough to beat a team, especially us, three times in a season. I think we’re going to be up for the challenge.″