Home Hand Games Men’s Basketball Defeats Trinity in Epic Clash, Advancing to NESCAC Championship Game

Men’s Basketball Defeats Trinity in Epic Clash, Advancing to NESCAC Championship Game

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MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – In an epic back-and-forth duel between two local NESCAC rivals, the top-seeded Wesleyan men’s basketball took down a gamely seven-seed Trinity, 70-67, at home on Saturday afternoon to advance to the NESCAC title game on Sunday. Wesleyan (23-3) will make their third-ever NESCAC title game appearance, having won the program’s only championship in 2015. Waiting in the wings for the Cardinals is Little 3 rival and fourth-seeded Williams, as the two storied rivals will meet at Noon on Sunday with the 2022 NESCAC Championship on the line.
 
On a night that saw Wesleyan set a new program single-season wins record (23), that was hardly the headliner in a game where neither side led by more than three points with 16 minutes left in the second half up until there was just 41 seconds remaining.
 
With the score tied at 65, neither side scored for more than three full minutes until Preston Maccoux ’23 buried the shot of the game from three right in front of the Cardinal bench. Nicky Johnson ’25 drove the lane, kicked out to Maccoux in the corner for a clutch make from three-point range that put the Cardinals ahead 68-65 with 1:49 left.

Maccoux 3 celebration
The Cardinal bench reacts to Maccoux’s clutch, go-ahead 3-point make in the final minutes

With work still to be done, it was Maccoux who grabbed a pull-up miss from Johnson and the ball eventually found its way to Shackylle Dezonie ’23 who hit a tough floater in the paint to put the Cardinals up by five with 41 seconds remaining.

After two Darius Lue free throws made it a one possession game again, Maccoux was fouled with seven seconds left and in a one-and-one situation, Maccoux missed the front end with Lue grabbing the defensive board. With no timeouts remaining, Lue quickly pushed the ball up the floor and pulled up for a potential game-tying three-pointer, only to see the shot hit rim and bounce into Johnson’s waiting arms to send the home faithful into a frenzy following an epic conclusion to an incredible game of basketball.

 

Johnson postgame celebration
Nicky Johnson ’25 celebrates a thrilling NESCAC Semifinal win

In a game that featured eight lead changes, all of which occurring in the second half, it was all Wesleyan at the start as the Cardinals fed off a lively home crowd and opened the game on a 7-0 run, forcing Trinity into two early timeouts. Johnson capped the unanswered streak with a three-point play off a feed from Jordan James ’22.
 
That positive start for the Cardinals prolonged for another minute-plus as Steven Johnson ’23 finished in the lane after a great Johnson dish around multiple Bantam defenders before Dezonie connected on a triple from the wing to make it 14-4 Wesleyan just 4:03 into the game.
 

Silloway fans
A packed Silloway Gymnasium helped give the top-seeded Cardinals a true homecourt advantage

Trinity found their footing and lowered the deficit to six points but Wesleyan countered with Peek hitting on the fast break that stretched the Cardinal lead to 13, their largest of the game. The Bantams, however, quickly turned the tables with an 11-0 run of their own that started with a triple from D.J. Smith and Ben Callahan-Gold hit a fallaway jumper to make it 31-29 Cardinals with 4:48 left in the half.
 
The two teams traded blows for the remaining minutes, with Trinity eventually tying the score at 37, but Nicky Johnson found Steven Johnson for an easy two points in the lane before Gabe Ravetz ’23 hit a three from the corner right before the halftime buzzer sounded, giving Wesleyan a 42-37 halftime lead.
 

Ravetz 3 celebration
Gabe Ravetz ’23 after his buzzer-beating triple at the end of the first half 

Wesleyan again started the half with a run as a mini 6-0 spurt turned a one-point lead into a 50-43 advantage just 2:17 into the period. James finished off a three-point play before Maccoux connected from deep.
 
Trinity then took their first lead of the game, going on an 8-0 run in a span of just two minutes as Callahan-Gold had the hot hand to start the second half, hitting his third three-pointer of the stanza (all of which came in the first 4:51 of the half), to give the Bantams a 53-52 lead.
 
From that point in the game, it was back-and-forth action throughout with neither side holding more than a three-point lead up until the final minute where the game was ultimately decided by the clutch makes from Maccoux and Dezonie.
 

Dezonie runner
This Shackylle Dezonie ’23 floater in the lane put Wesleyan up by 5 with 41 seconds left

On a night where his shot wasn’t falling, Nicky Johnson found other ways to make plays as the first-year, in just his second career playoff game, came three points shy of a triple-double. Nicky finished with a career-high 14 assists, the most assists for any Cardinal in a game in well over 20 years, to go along with 10 rebounds (his first career double-digit rebounding effort) and seven points. He also finished with just one turnover in a game-high 37 minutes.
 
Points came from many sources up and down the Cardinal lineup as James led the way with 13 (6-8 FG) to go along with seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Sam Peek ’22 tallied 12 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Ravetz came off the bench and scored 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-3 3FG) and grabbed five rebounds in just 13 minutes. Maccoux had the clutch make from deep, helping give him 10 points to go along with three rebounds and four assists.
 

Jordan James celebration
Jordan James ’22 flexes in front of the Cardinal student section

Trinity was led by Will Dorion who scored a game-high 14 points while dishing out a career-high 12 assists for his first career double-double. Callahan-Gold tallied 14 points and seven rebounds while Donald Jorden Jr. finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
 
As a team, Wesleyan finished with a 48-32 advantage over Trinity in points in the paint while the Cardinals outscored the Bantams 18-4 in fast break points. Trinity had the upper hand in points off turnover (17-3) but the Cardinals held the Bantams to just 11-of-36 shooting (30.6 percent) in the second half alone.
 
Wesleyan heads into Sunday’s title game showdown against the Ephs looking for the program’s second NESCAC Championship. The two sides split the regular season series, with Williams defeating Wesleyan 69-60 in Middletown on December 4 while the Cardinals exacted revenge with a 97-52 triumph in Williamstown on Feb. 7 in a game that saw Williams play with a limited lineup due to several COVID-19 inactives. The last postseason meeting was the 2018 NESCAC Championship game, which was won by Williams 69-58.