By Matt Noonan
CHESTNUT HILL, MA – Trailing Wheelock College by five points entering the second frame, Regis College used an offensive surge to lift them past the Wildcats, 59-49.
“We have a young group, and they’ve been losing close games all year, and the biggest thing was they didn’t hang their head and we actually learned from it,” said Regis head coach Nathan Hager, who was all smiles after his team’s first opening round NECC tournament victory on Tuesday.
The Pride were led by sophomores Ahmad Charles, (21 points) and Robert Edwards, (10 points, seven rebounds), who combined for 20 second half points, while freshman Ethan Peana ended the game with a team-high 10 rebounds.
“[It’s a] big win for our team,” said Edwards. “We’ve had some up and downs this year, [so] it’s good to come out, play hard in the playoffs, [and] get a win.”
Regis jumped out to a quick, 5-0 lead before Wheelock responded with a layup from senior Eric Rice, and a trifecta by senior Max Kaim, (17 points) before the Wildcats offense stalled, and allowed the Pride to grow their lead to 17-7 at 10:11.
Senior Elliot Hernandez rejuvenated Wheelock’s veteran squad with a layup a few minutes later, which set up a 21-6 run to end the half with a 28-23 advantage.
Entering the second half, Charles jumpstarted Regis’ offense with a pair from the free throw line before the Pride tallied 13 points in five minutes, which helped them relinquish the lead from Wheelock.
Edward extended his team’s lead with a layup before senior Jonathon Josselin knocked down two shots from the free throw line.
“In the second half, we didn’t make turnovers because we had 11 in the first half, [but] in the second half we had four, so we took care of the ball, we limited their second chance points [by] boxing out on rebounds,” said Charles.
Charles also made sure his team took preserved their lead, as he recorded a layup and then a three-pointer in front of his team’s bench with 5:49 remaining to give Regis a 49-39 advantage.
“Ahmad is a very confident guy, and is an unspoken leader on our team. He’s a guy who doesn’t say much, and his actions do the talking,” said Hager. “Him hitting a three, that’s great.”
Wheelock then began a small comeback when Kaim made a couple of free throws to bring the Wildcats within six points at 1:42, but their late rally was denied when Charles, Josselin and sophomore Ryan Chambers sank six combined free throws to help the Pride earn the win, and punch their ticket to the semi-finals in Worcester against Elms College on Friday evening.
“We just got to go out and practice the next couple days, get better, and prepare for Elms,” said Charles.