QUINCY, Mass.- The Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team edged Wheelock 62-61 on a victory-clinching rejection by Christian Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) in the opening contest of the 2016-17 season Tuesday evening at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
The Lions improve to 1-0 on the year while the Wildcats drop to 0-1 overall.
Corey Doran (Fairfield, Calif.) scored a game-high 16 points and added four rebounds on the night. Lynch finished with 13 points, seven boards and three blocks. Andrew Mitchell (Campobello, S.C.) chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds off the bench. Anthony Petrilli (Santa Clarita, Calif.) dished out nine assists and collected a team-best eight boards.
"I'm really proud of our perseverance and effort in the second half. We kept digging ourselves into holes and then fought hard to get out of them. We made just enough plays tonight," commented first-year head coach Scott Polsgrove.
Eastern Nazarene raced out a 6-2 lead three minutes into the game as Doran deposited a pair of early layups.
The visitors jumped ahead 7-6 less than five minutes in on a trey by Matthew Eason.
The hosts leveled the score at 14-14 with 8:11 remaining in the first half. David Eddings (Endicott, N.Y.) found Max Stevenson (Victoria, Australia) cutting down the lane with a slick bounce pass to setup the rookie for a lay-in.
Wheelock responded with five consecutive points to grab a 19-14 edge with 6:31 to go in the opening stanza.
After the Lions cut the deficit to 23-21, the Wildcats capped off the half on a 9-2 run to lead 32-23 at the halftime intermission.
Doran led the home team with 10 points in the opening frame while Lynch netted five points.
Eastern Nazarene shot 35.7% from the floor in the first half and connected on just 2-of-11 three-point attempts. Wheelock sported a field-goal percentage of 48.1% at the break while draining 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
The guests stretched their advantage to 10 less than a minute into the second half on a layup by Nicholas Fenton, 34-24.
The Lions battled back and tied the contest at 41-41 as Micah Simmons-Smalls followed up his own miss to tip in a bucket with 11 minutes remaining.
After back-to-back threes gave the Wildcats a six-point lead, Eastern Nazarene rattled off 11 unanswered points, highlighted by a four-point play by Lynch, to establish a 52-47 lead with seven minutes on the clock.
Wheelock reclaimed a four-point edge with 4:16 left to play as Avaughn Brown drilled a pair of three-pointers, 59-55.
The home team bounced back with layups by Doran and Petrilli to pull ahead with 3:30 to go, 60-59.
The visitors seized a one-point advantage with 1:37 left to play on two free throws by Anthony Williams, 61-60.
Mitchell splashed two shots from the charity stripe with 1:10 remaining to elevate Eastern Nazarene 62-61.
After a shot-clock violation by the Lions, the Wildcats gained possession of the ball with under nine seconds left. Wheelock's Eason drove to the rim down the right side but had his last-second effort blocked by Lynch's left hand as time expired.
Williams paced the Wildcats with 13 points while Fenton added 11 points and six assists.
Eastern Nazarene finished with a field-goal percentage of 46.3% to go with 6-for-9 shooting from the perimeter. Wheelock shot 45.1% from the floor on the night and 37.5% from long distance.
Up next, the Lions visit Daniel Webster for a non-league matchup November 17.