Last Tuesday in Emerson Gymnasium, the Wheaton Men’s Basketball team saw its season come to a heartbreaking conclusion at the hands of Clark 73-71 in the quarterfinals of the NEWMAC conference tournament.
Brian Walmsley’s men battled Clark for two wins that were decided by single digits earlier in the season. The Lyons saw their thirteen-point lead with under eleven minutes to play in regulation disappear as the Cougars of Clark University went on a 26-8 run over the next four minutes to flip the game on its head. After cutting the lead to just two with 42 ticks left on the clock, the Cougars were able to hang on to their advantage the rest of the way to clinch a berth into the semifinals for the first time since 2010.
Freshman Tristen Harry (East Taunton, MA) put the cherry on top of a back-and-forth first half that featured six different lead changes. Led by Alex Carlisle (St. Johnsbury, VT) on the offensive end, the Lyons played at their own pace, collecting eight assists on thirteen made field goals through the first 20 minutes. With a pack of students dressed in blue behind them, Wheaton took a slim four-point lead into the locker room.
Aaron Williams (Springfield, MA) went on a 10-4 run himself to kick off the final twenty minutes of action, knocking down two shots from behind the arc during that stretch. Down by thirteen with 14:48 remaining in the contest, Clark took a timeout to regroup.
The Cougars then went on a 7-0 run capped off by a Mikey O’Brien (New York, NY) three. The Lyons would respond with back-to-back buckets from Ty Murphy (Dedham, MA), and Carlisle to stretch their lead back to thirteen.
As the clock ran under the ten-minute mark, the Cougars bench became an x-factor. All in all, the Clark bench unit would outscore Wheaton’s 20-6 through forty minutes. Sophomore guard Ian Calabrese (Simsbury, CT) finished the game with three three-pointers. Clark would knock down three consecutive threes within a two-minute span including two by Calabrese to shrink the Lyons’ advantage back to six. Coming out of a Wheaton timeout, Calabrese completed an old-fashioned three-point play, following up on his own miss to cut the Wheaton lead to within three for the first time since the 1:24 mark in the first half. Clark continued to shoot the lights out down the stretch, completing a four-point play followed by another Calabrese three to propel the Cougars to a five-point edge. Wheaton would come back through Carlisle, and Evan Cook (Dunstable, MA) in the final minutes, but the attempts fell short.
Despite the Lyons losing out on the chance to advance to the semifinals, this was a season every member of the team should be proud of. The campaign featured two of Wheaton’s key contributors reaching the 1,000-point mark and the most conference wins under Walmsley since the 2017/18 season.
For the first time since the 2017/18 campaign, the Lyons finished above .500, clinching their first home NEWMAC playoff contest since 2010. Led by six seniors on and off the floor, Wheaton finished with the second-best regular season in the NEWMAC conference through fourteen games.
Leading scorers Carlisle and Williams finished as two of the top-three scorers in the conference, leaving the Lyons on the right track toward continued success. Without question it was a tough pill to swallow to conclude a season like this, but at the end of the day, the seniors are leaving the program in a much better position than they found it.