Worcester, Mass. – Wheaton senior Anthony Coppola (Watertown, Mass.) scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and the visiting Lyons squeaked out a crucial 57-53 win over host Clark in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball action on Saturday afternoon.
Coppola's heroics in Worcester are all too familiar to the Cougars – a team he is averaging more than 20 points per game against in his four career games played at the Kneller Athletic Center.
The win for the Lyons exacts a small bit of revenge for the visitors, who were knocked out of the NEWMAC Tournament by Clark last season in Norton.
While Coppola wasn't extremely effective from the field, going just 6-for-17, his aggressive forays into the lane resulted in a 12-for-15 performance from the free throw line.
Clark (5-9, 0-2 NEWMAC), meanwhile, struggled from the field the entire afternoon, shooting just 29 percent (18-for-61) and only 67 percent from the free throw line after entering the contest as the NEWMAC top team from the charity stripe.
The game was close the entire way with eight lead changes and ten ties. After Wheaton (5-7, 1-1 NEWMAC) went into the half with a 24-22 lead, Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) scored Clark's first eight points to give the Cougars momentum, but Wheaton was able to stay close as Anthony Weeks (Fitchburg, Mass.) and Shawn Daily were able to convert inside baskets along with a pair of free throws from Coppola the game was all square at 30-30.
From that point each team went on runs that seemed to give them control of the contest. A Coppola triple capped a 7-0 run that gave Wheaton a 42-34 lead with 7:17 left.
Clark made a push of their own to get the lead down to three as Jonathan Phillips (Shrewsbury, Mass.) drained a long three-pointer to get the Cougars back to 42-39 a little more than a minute later.
Wheaton responded, however, as Coppola took over, scoring on a conventional three-point play and then made seven of eight free throws to give the Lyons a 54-45 lead with 55 seconds left.
A couple of baskets by Clark combined by a pair of Wheaton turnovers made the score 54-50 with 24 seconds left but Brian Grossman (Duxbury, Mass.) made a pair from the line and Coppola split two free throws that gave the Lyons a 57-50 lead.
Drew Billington (Fairfield, Conn.) then threw in a half court shot at the buzzer to complete the game scoring.
Coppola was the only Wheaton player in double figures but Daily finished with four points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Vayda tallied 20 points (7-for-13) to go along with six rebounds and was the only Cougar in double figures. Tucker Esborn (Branford, Conn.) added eight points off the bench, while Mitch Renshaw (Rutland, Mass.) hauled in a game-high ten rebounds.
The Cougars are back in action on Tuesday when they step out of conference play with a home contest against Tufts.
The Lyons, winners of five of their last six games, will return to the hardwood on Wednesday with a home contest against Springfield.