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Women’s basketball wins conference title in record-breaking season

Adrien Gobin / THE GATEPOST

By Adam Levine

Sports Editor

The Framingham State Rams beat the Bridgewater State Bears 74-62 Feb. 24 to win their third Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament Championship in four seasons.

Framingham’s 24-win season sets the new program record for the most wins in a single season.

The Rams dominated the MASCAC all season, only suffering one loss in conference play and ending with a conference record of 11-1. The Bears beat the Rams 56-47 Jan. 6 at Bridgewater in their first matchup of the season. In their second matchup, the Rams got their revenge with a 59-58 victory Jan. 31 on their home court.

The Bears finished second place in the MASCAC with a conference record of 10-2, only suffering losses to the Rams and the Westfield State Owls.

Throughout the season, both Framingham’s players and coaches anticipated they would see the defending MASCAC Champions, the Bridgewater Bears, in the conference finals this season.

Framingham entered the game with a perfect 12-0 home record, but the athletes knew Bridgewater would not roll over and give up the title game.

The 2023-24 Co-MASCAC Player of the Year recipients, Bridgewater’s Kylie Grassi and Framingham fifth-year player, Captain Gwendolyn Carpenter, headlined the battle.

Framingham’s other fifth-year player, Captain Flannery O’Connor, also headlined the matchup as a MASCAC All-Conference First-Team member and Bridgewater’s Sydney Bradbury and Framingham junior Kelsey Yelle heated up the game even more as MASCAC All-Conference Second-Team members.

Framingham’s Head Coach, Walter Paschal, earned the Women’s Basketball BSN Sports Coach of the Year this season to wrap-up the Rams’ individual awards.

The matchup did not disappoint. The Bears arrived with a fan bus and lined their student section with a sea of red.

Framingham’s fan section matched and surpassed Bridgewater’s energy. Athletes and students from all teams filled the stands.

As each team’s starting five took their positions on the court, there was not an empty seat in the Rams’ gymnasium.

Bridgewater scored the opening basket and Bradbury’s back-to-back 3-point field goals propelled the Bears to an early 8-2 lead. Bradbury scored another 2 points and her perfect shooting led the Bears to a 19-18 lead after the first quarter.

Despite their anticipated matchup, Grassi and Carpenter both had slow first-quarter performances, scoring 2 and 0 points, respectively.

The stars battled in the second quarter. Grassi led her team with 6 points, while Carpenter and Yelle led the Rams with 5 and 6 points, respectively.

The Bears once again edged out the Rams by a point in a low-scoring second quarter, extending their lead to 31-29 at halftime.

The Rams, who shot only 8 for 12 from the freethrow line in the first half, shot a perfect 9 for 9 in the third quarter. This helped them win the quarter and begin their comeback.

Adrien Gobin / THE GATEPOST

Bridgewater and Framingham battled for the first 30 minutes of the Championship Game, each of the first three quarters ending within 1 point. The Bears led entering the fourth quarter, but only 53-52 in the neck-and-neck contest.

The Rams commanded the fourth quarter, outscoring the Bears 22-9. Ultimately, Framingham’s ability to attack the boards, recording a lopsided 13 fourth-quarter rebounds to Bridgewater’s seven, launched them to victory. 

Framingham’s authoritative fourth-quarter performance captured the victory after a grueling 40-minute clash of the MASCAC titans, which lived up to the expectations with 14 ties and 13 lead changes in the game.

O’Connor was named the 2024 Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) and wrapped up her historic career as a Ram with her third MASCAC Tournament Championship.

She said this championship run “definitely felt the best. It really feels amazing. We put all the hard work in and we got the reward.”

O’Connor said earning the MVP award feels awesome, but “I totally think that it should have been Gwendolyn Carpenter.

“But you know what, whatever - we’ll share it together,” she added.

O’Connor currently stands as the second all-time scoring leader for the women’s basketball program, surpassing both of her assistant coaches this season. She also overcame the 1,000-rebound milestone and moved up to second on the all-time career rebounding list, moving past Assistant Athletic Director Kathy Lynch ’02.

Lisa Halloran ’89 is first on the all-time scoring list and Janice Coppolino ’03 is first on the all-time rebounding list.

O’Connor is leaving the Rams after four seasons. “The younger girls are really starting to understand. They know what Rams basketball is and I have all the confidence in the world for them to keep going.”

Fellow fifth-year Carpenter also concludes her fourth and final season with a conference title. “I have been lucky to be a part of three of these and every year, there's something different about it. But this one's got to be the best one yet.”

She said, “The work that went into this and everything - our careers just kind of coming to this moment. We went into this game thinking we're going to leave it on the floor, and I think we did that.”

Carpenter wraps up her career as the all-time career assist leader, beating out Assistant Coach Lauren Perron this season. She also holds the record for the most assists in a single season this year, breaking her own record from the 2019-20 season. 

Her success extends past the MASCAC. Entering the Division III National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Tournament this weekend, Carpenter ranks first in assists per game (7.4) and second in assists (193) in all of NCAA DIII women’s basketball.

She said, “It’s very cool to see my name on a list of players from around the country! … I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my teammates and I also think it shows how well we play together!

“I am proud to represent Framingham State on those lists, because most people don’t know who we are or what we do. To be able to put us on the map and gain respect for our little state school is really cool!” added Carpenter.

As she hangs up her jersey, she said she is “really excited” for the future of the program. “The underclassmen especially have really come a long way this year. They play really well together.

“I'm excited to watch what they can do next year,” added Carpenter.

Jenna Tavanese, a senior and captain, said winning the championship is “incredible.”

She added, “To be able to do this with the people I love in my last year of playing, it’s amazing and surreal and I'm so happy to be here with my teammates.”

Tavanese said the future of the program is “in very good hands.

“Coach is an awesome coach. He knows what he's doing. He knows how to treat his players and he knows how to win a MASCAC championship,” she added.

Regan Fein, a senior, said winning a title in her final season “gives you a lot of closure.”

She said, “The culture we’ve built has been something really special I haven't felt anywhere else. … Just having that moment to realize, ‘These girls really accomplished something special.’ It gives you the perfect, I don't want to say ‘fairytale ending,’ but it really is that ending that everyone looks forward to.”

Fein said as a graduating senior, she is “content” for the future of the program. “I think that they're set for the years to come.

“They have a phenomenal coach. He's extremely dedicated to the game, to the girls, to everything, and the girls that he's brought in are just phenomenal,” she added.

Junior Michelle Moreno is wrapping up her first season as a Ram after transferring to FSU. 

She said her goal coming here was to “have chemistry with my team and win the championship.”

After accomplishing her goal, Moreno said, “Honestly, it feels unreal. We worked hard so I'm happy for all of us.”

Yelle scored a game-high 21 points in the MASCAC Championship Game and also recorded eight rebounds and two blocks. She averaged 15.5 points per game for the season, the second most for the Rams. Yelle also finished the season first in the conference in field goal percentage with an impressive 56.2%.

Yelle said she felt good about her performance, “but I’ve got to give credit to my teammates.

“They gave me great passes and did a lot of the work, so I'm just so happy that we won,” she added.

Yelle was a member of the 2019-20 MASCAC Championship team but said, “This one is just so much sweeter.”

She said she feels great about the program’s future. “We have great underclassmen so I think we're in good hands.”

Junior Katie Haselton said winning the conference title is “the best feeling in the world.

“We truly came together, especially in the fourth quarter and tied it together to give the seniors what they deserve on their way out,” she added.

Haselton added the program's future is in “good hands.” 

She said graduating fifth-year teammates, O’Connor and Carpenter, “have been the face of this program for years now. They set some good footprints for me and Kelsey to walk behind. They've truly shown us what it is to be a FRAMily.”

Lauren Perron ’18, assistant coach for the women’s basketball team, is in her fifth season on the coaching staff and has now won three MASCAC Championships as a coach and played for the Rams for four seasons.

Perron said winning the championship “feels great every time, but this one just feels more special.”

She said the seniors and players who came back for a fifth year helped build the team’s chemistry.

“I'm happy for the girls that we could accomplish this because it's a big task. It’s hard to do and this one just feels special,” Perron said.

She said she is “optimistic” for the program's future. “We've taken it from a level that it was before to where it is now. Now we just want to maintain and exceed that.”

Reagan Mulherin ’18, assistant coach for the women’s basketball team, is in her first season as an assistant coach and played for the Rams for three seasons.

Mulherin said winning the conference tournament during her first season on the coaching staff is “probably the best feeling.”

She said the team “had an amazing season - so proud of them and just to top it off with the championship - couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Mulherin said she is “just very proud” and “I wouldn't ever choose to be a part of a better program.”

She added the future of the program is bright. “Our younger girls can really, really play. We have a few juniors who can really just step up to the game and I'm very excited, honestly, for the next few years. I think we’re going to be very good.”

Coach Paschal concluded his 11th season as the head coach with a MASCAC Tournament Championship and earned BSN Coach of the Year.

He said each championship is different - “each one's special. It makes it more special for the kids you do it with.”

Paschal said, “As we say all the time, ‘This is what we do.’”

He said the program's future is bright. “The young kids are really good. They've learned a lot” from the graduating seniors.

Paschal said next season will be different, but “change is inevitable.”



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