NORTH ADAMS — It has been a whirlwind couple months for Loren Stock.
MCLA announced the hiring of its new Women’s Basketball Head Coach on Sept. 28, 2016. Exactly two months later, she saw her team put into motion the full extent of changes she’s been working to make.
The Trailblazers used an explosive second half to pull away from Lasell College at home, winning 55-36. MCLA improved to 3-2 under Stock, but this was a culmination of sorts for the first-year coach and her veteran-led team.
“The girls, having a lot of seniority, have been super helpful. They’re phenomenal leaders and they are really adapting to where I want to take the program even though I’ll only have one year with them,” said Stock. “It has been positive. We have a lot to do. A new offense, new defense, new everything; style, culture, so it is going to take time for that to evolve. I was shocked tonight to just see the chemistry come together. Kudos to the ladies. They put in the effort and were able to produce tonight. It’s a great feeling.”
Senior Courtney McLaughlin, a Pittsfield High graduate, led the way for MCLA, netting 16 points and shooting 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Classmate Kayla Hotaling reeled in a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double and former Drury star Emily Moulton chipped in 10 points in the win.
“We’ve all bought into [Coach Stock’s] philosophy and she’s very energetic and loves us. It has been an easy adjustment,” said Moulton. “I think today was a really good push for the rest of our season.”
“There were some challenges with her coming in so late, but she has been nothing but helpful. She has not for one second given up on us,” added McLaughlin. “I think she’s been great for our program.”
After falling apart late in a home loss to Curry over the weekend, it was imperative for Stock’s team to finish the full 40 minutes Monday night. Curry outscored MCLA 21-11 in that fourth quarter, turning a tie game through three frames into a 10-point loss.
Back at Amsler Monday, the Trailblazers flipped the script. They held the Lasers to just three fourth-quarter points, and 15 in the second half overall, turning a two-point halftime edge into a blow away victory.
“It was something that we stressed, that defense wins games. The energy was low for Curry, and we addressed it and dealt with it at practice the following day and then left it there,” said Stock. “The girls knew it stemmed from our defense. Our offense is going to come. And today we got stops and that translated into our offense and people made shots.”
“I think it all stemmed from our defense. We got it done on that end and that translated into our offense,” commented McLaughlin.
Both teams struggled in the early going to make shots, playing to an 8-8 tie after one quarter. Lasell made its move in the second frame, building up a 19-11 lead. However, McLaughlin got hot late in the half, hitting a layup and then coming away with a steal and fast-break assist on a Karina Mattera lay-in.
In the final minute of the second, former Hoosac Valley guard McKenzie Robinson (three assists, three steals) skipped a cross-court pass to McLaughlin, who queued up a deep three and canned it for the 23-21 halftime lead.
MCLA asserted itself early in the third, scoring the first six points of the quarter, while holding its opponent scoreless until nearly four minutes in. The Lasers competed, though, tying it back up at 32. McLaughlin went to the bench for her only respite between 2:33 and 1:28 in the third.
Excellent ball-movement led to another McLaughlin three, which keyed an 11-1 run to end the quarter. Senior guard Ashley Clawson coaxed down an acrobatic layup at the buzzer to give the Trailblazers a 43-33 lead entering the final frame.
“A lot of it is swinging it and reading the defense. If they’re going up to the top of their defense, then you have to read that and flare out,” said McLaughlin. “I think that was a big part of those plays, and just my teammates setting really good screens.”
Moulton, who struggled with her shot early in the game before going to bench, came up with a handful of key plays. She blocked shots on back-to-back Lasers possessions in the third. In the fourth, she hit a baseline jumper finished off an offensive rebound put-back to push MCLA ahead by 13.
“It was really important and I think that will build a good team vibe for us moving forward,” said Moulton, who credited her teammates giving her the confidence to hit those late shots. “We worked really hard for this in practice and needed to take home a good W.”
For Stock, who was previously an assistant at Mt. Holyoke last season, the whirlwind continues. However, with the team and department behind her, more success is on the horizon.
“You blink and what’s the date,” joked the coach. “Honestly this has been surreal. The staff here is amazing. This has been one of the best transitions I’ve had in a career field.”