Western New England's Comeback Effort Falls Short in 99-96 Loss to Nichols

Freshman Antonio Brancato scored a season-high 23 points in Western New England's 99-96 loss to Nichols on Tuesday. (Photo by Rachael Margossian)
Freshman Antonio Brancato scored a season-high 23 points in Western New England's 99-96 loss to Nichols on Tuesday. (Photo by Rachael Margossian)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Western New England men's basketball team fell to CCC foe Nichols College in a 99-96 battle on Tuesday night at the Alumni Healthful Living Center.

Top Performers
The Golden Bears received double-figure scoring from five players. First-year guard Antonio Brancato (Fairfield, Conn.) finished with a season-high 23 points and season-high seven rebounds. Senior guard Mikey Pettway (Bridgeport, Conn.) contributed 22 points, five assists, and four rebounds. Sophomore guard Alex Sikorski (Rocky Hill, Conn.) added 16 points and seven caroms. Junior guard Mike McGuire (Garden City, N.Y.) shot 6-7 from the field and notched 14 points, while first-year forward Kenny Flynn (Dudley, Mass) added 10 points, four boards, and two blocks off the bench.

For the Bison, junior guard DeAnte Bruton (New London, Conn.) led the way with 23 points, hitting 4-5 from deep. Senior guard Marcos Echevarria (Lynn, Mass.) scored 22 points and added four boards and four assists. Sophomore center Matt Morrow (Leicester, Mass.) finished with a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Junior guard Kash Jackson (Canton, Ga.) and senior forward Josiah Kimball (Saint Johnsbury, Vt.) contributed 14 points and 13 points respectively, off the bench.

Game Review
In the first five minutes, both teams were trading baskets. At 14:20, Bruton hit a three that sparked a 9-0 run for the Bison. The Bison would continue to build their lead with triples from Jackson and freshman forward Jaekwon Spencer (Bristol, Conn.). At the 9:47 mark, Jackson nailed his second of the half to make the lead 28-13 in favor of Nichols. The Bison lead grew to 16 with a layup from Morrow with four minutes remaining.

The Golden Bears would cut the lead in half with an 8-0 run of their own fueled by Brancato and McGuire. After an Echevarria triple, Brancato would get to the basket to cut the halftime deficit to 47-38 for the Golden Bears.

Early in the second half, the Golden Bears were able to cut the Bison lead to just four points after a Sikorski triple and a McGuire layup. Nichols responded with a 7-0 run that was capped off with another Bruton three. At 12:57, Brancato would rip baseline and finish through contact to keep the deficit to single digits at 61-53. Over the next four minutes, Nichols would score 20 points to Western New England's 10 and stretch their lead to 20 after a Echevarria triple.

The Golden Bears would mount a gradual comeback with a 10-2 run highlighted by a McGuire transition three. With 5:05 remaining, Jackson would sink a three that made the lead 89-74 for the Bison. The Golden Bears responded with another 7-0 run to cut it to 89-81. The Western New England comeback effort came up short in the final minutes thanks to free throw shooting from the Bison, resulting in a 99-96 finish.

Notes

  • Brancato recorded a season-high 23 points and has reached double figures in five of his last six games.
  • Western New England outscored Nichols in the paint, 58-38.

Up Next
Western New England (4-10, 1-5 CCC) looks to bounce back at home against Salve Regina (6-8, 2-3 CCC) at 7pm on Thursday, January 10. Nichols College (12-2, 4-1 CCC) will travel to Wentworth (4-10, 2-4 CCC) for a CCC contest at 7:30pm on Thursday.