NORTH ADAMS -- The MCLA women's basketball team built a 16-point halftime lead and was able to survive a furious rally by Daniel Webster, escaping with a 66-57 victory in Thursday's season opener.
The Trailblazers outscored the Eagles 27-9 in the final 14 minutes of the first half to cruise to a 36-20 lead. The lead quickly began to vanish in the second half as Daniel Webster's Vanessa Bosques scored 22 of her game-high 33 points. The Trail blazers got into foul trouble early in the half, sending the Eagles to the line 20 times. They converted 16 of those chances, led by Bosques, who was 11 of 13.
"We didn't play as good defense in the second," junior Danielle Scolpino said. "Our team defense was there, but we really need to stop fouling. We had too many fouls. They were 1-and-1 too quick, that's really how they came back."
The Trailblazers needed two steals in the final minute of the game to hold off a complete comeback by Daniel Webster. With just a four-point edge, freshman Mariah Brown made a diving effort to steal a pass. She deflected the ball to Scolpino who finished the play with a layup, brining her game total to 20 -- a career high.
Brown got involved in the defense again with 20 seconds to play, combining with senior Lucy Tremblay for another steal. This time it led to a fast break for Kaitlyn Chenevert. She also finished the game with a career high in points with 24.
"I think we dug down deep and realized that it should have never come to that point, since we were up by 16 at the half," Scolpino said. "We just had to come together. Coach drew up some great plays, and we got some big steals here at the end."
Brown finished the game with four steals, good enough for third on the team behind Tremblay and Chenevert, who both had five.
The freshman guard struggled to score in her college debut, recording just one point. She went 0 for 5 from the floor and just 1 for 3 at the free-throw line. She did contribute three assists and four rebounds in her 27 minutes.
"Mariah Brown is a freshman in her first college game, and she had some monster plays for us," coach Holly McGovern said. "I think she played well, and she's going to need to play well for us. It's just going to take a little while to get her adjusted. She did well."
The entire team is working on adjusting to a new season. Tremblay and Johanna Miner are the only two seniors on the squad this year and three of the team's five starters did not start last season.
"When we spread out, calmed down and took a second to realize what we had for a formation we could see the floor better," Chenevert said. "In the second [half] we were a little bit too quick to get rid of the ball."
The team is also working on putting a greater emphasis on defense. The Trailblazers succeeded in limiting Daniel Webster's chances in the first half, but were pushed back in the second.
"We have to work on getting to our spots and beating our girl to that next spot," Chenevert said. "It's about being there to help your defense out."
While the defense is hoping to find its identity in the first few games of the season, the offense looks to be in full swing.
Tremblay is the highest-scoring returner -- she averaged 14.6 points a game last season -- but was held in check Thursday. She had just five points, but led the team in assists with six. Scolpino hit four 3-pointers in the team's opener and was a perfect 4 for 4 at the free-throw line.
"Coach wants me to start hitting a lot of 3-pointers this year," Scolpino said. "I didn't shoot all that well last year, so hopefully this keeps going throughout the season. My team does a good job of kicking the ball out to me."