NORTH ADAMS -- The MCLA men's basketball team has two nemesis: Turnovers and free throws. The Trailblazers weren't able to overcome them when they teamed up with Fitchburg State on Saturday afternoon.
The Trailblazers missed four of five free throws at a crucial point in the second half. It would have pulled them within a point with 5 minutes to play. Instead, Fitchburg kept its distance before hanging on to win the MASCAC championship, 80-72.
Adding salt to the open wound, MCLA had to sit on the sideline and watch Fitchburg receive its hardware and celebrate.
"Top five toughest things I ever had to do in my life," senior Vernon Cross said. "That's nothing you ever want to do. It sucked, plain and simple. It just sucked."
MCLA was erasing an 11-point, second-half deficit with a full-court press. It had Fitchburg's lead down to six, thanks to four consecutive free throws and a trey. Salem couldn't get out of its own end and then was called for a technical foul.
Anthony Barbosa had just made a four straight free throws and a 3-pointer. He made 1 of 2 at the line, Dominique Bostick missed two and John Jones made 1 of 2 all in a blink. MCLA had left four points on the floor in a six-point game in just 38 seconds.
"Thursday night, we were money from the line. [Missed free throws] hadn't hurt us all season," Morrison said.
It could have been a two-point game. Instead, Fitchburg scored the next four for an eight-point advantage. MCLA did get within two, but the 6-0 run was used to catch back up, not get over the hill.
"That hill that you're climbing, you're stuck on it. You haven't really gotten to the top, Morrison said. "You need to keep making progress for that energy to keep building. ... It probably stalled our energy a little bit."