MIDDLETOWN, CT -- The Ephs rallied from behind to beat Little Three rival Wesleyan 80-76 this evening. The game between the Ephs (3-0) and the Cardinals (1-2) does not count towards league records; however, it was an important win for the Ephs as they look ahead towards league play.
The Cardinals got on the board first after Nate Robertson fouled Derick Beresford. Beresford hit both free throws. Sasha Brown then stole the ball from the Ephs and made a layup to give Wesleyan the early 4-0 lead. James Klemm – after receiving a pass from James Wang – hit a three to get the Ephs back in the game early. The game continued hoop-for-hoop until the Cardinals began to pull away around the 14-minute mark. Wesleyan forced the lead to thirteen with a jumper by Mike Callaghan before the Ephs began to rally in the final nine minutes of the half.
Led by a pair of three-pointers from Klemm and a third from Wang, plus six points from Troy Whittington in the final 2:12, the Ephs cut the lead down to three at the half. The score was 40-37 at halftime. Said Coach Mike Maker, "We didn't panic. The guys showed a lot of resolve and mental toughness to chip away [at the lead] and [get] it down to three at the half."
The Ephs came out in the second half with the same fire that spurred their first-half run. The two teams, however, traded points for the majority of the half. Although Wesleyan was able to push its lead back to seven, the Ephs' defensive efforts never allowed the Cardinals to truly get a rhythm going. Whittington led the defensive effort in the half with four blocks, and Nate Robertson added one of his own.
Multiple players contributed to the Ephs' offensive production in the half. The Ephs hit six threes in the half – two from Klemm, two from Wang, one from senior Harlan Dodson and one from freshman Hayden Rooke-Ley. The Ephs also made layups and hit several jumpers in the half.
Whittington led the way for the Ephs with 22 points. He shot 8-for-10 from the field. He also recorded six blocks and 13 rebounds. It was his second double double of the season. Coach Maker commented on his senior after the game: "I can't say enough about Troy Whittington. He had a monster game. He is our go-to guy, our anchor on offense and defense… We're a better team with him on the court. "Wang added another 21 points for the Ephs, and Klemm added 19 of his own. The Ephs shot 53.3% on the night.
For the Cardinals, Brown scored 25 points, and Beresford had 17 as well. Wesleyan shot 45.5% on the night.
Tonight's win gives Coach Maker an 8-1 all-time record in Little Three competition. For the first time since the 1975 and 1976 seasons, Coach Maker has led the Ephs to two straight outright Little Three titles.
The Ephs will play MCLA on Sunday evening. Said Coach Maker looking ahead, "The most important thing is for the kids to enjoy their families and holidays and return on Friday… to get ready for MCLA." The game will take place at 6:00.