Home > News > War Lost. Warriors Basketball concedes NEC Championship to Wagner

War Lost. Warriors Basketball concedes NEC Championship to Wagner

Jack Lawhorne & Robert Gambale – Sports Writers

Marcus Antonelli – Sports Editor

Photo by Nate Tacey

NORTH ANDOVER, Ma. — The Merrimack Men’s Basketball Team were defending champions of the NEC. Last year, the Warriors triumphed over FDU but regardless, they were unable to make March Madness due to the fact that they were still in their four year transition from division two to division one. 

This year, that was no longer the case. The Warriors were out of their ban from NCAA competition and they didn’t want to waste any time. It was the NEC Championship. Where No. 2 Merrimack (21-11, 13-3 NEC) were set to host the No. 6 Wagner Seahawks (15-15, 7-9 NEC) in a sold out, national media packed Lawler Arena.

Wagner, the heavy underdog, made it this far in the conference tournament thanks to their efforts in upsetting the third place Sacred Heart Pioneers and the first place CCSU Blue Devils. No one was underestimating this team. 

THE RECAP

This one started off slow for MC, missing their first five field goals. At the first media timeout, Devon Savage was red-hot, banging in two three pointers early. 

It was pretty evident that the referees weren’t going to interfere with the flow of the game. Only a mere five foul calls were made between both sides in the first frame.

Despite the Warriors knocking down a few long-range shots, The Seahawks controlled the game up to the halfway point of the first half with a 7 point lead. MC was shooting 36% from the field. 

Right after the halfway point, Budd Clark got us back on the board with a smooth isolation jumper. Inbounding the ball, Wagner stepped over the boundary and turned the rock over. On the biggest stage, Jordan Derkack added his first points of the game on a building-shaking and-one three. 

From there the game fell into a stalemate for a while. Merrimack missed five consecutive threes, making the end of the half relatively uneventful for Warrior fans. 

It was apparent that the Warriors struggled to get inside the paint without a healthy Jordan Derkack. Nonetheless, Wagner led by four, 29-25. Devon Savage was a bright spot for the Warriors with four threes for 12 points.

At the halfway mark of the second half, the Warriors found themselves down eight but Budd Clark’s facilitating combined with Jordan McKoy’s shooting kept them in it. Mckoy hit three crucial threes towards the middle of the second but Merrimack still remained in a hole. 

The next possession, Clark set up Devon Savage to collect his 7th assist of the night. The rain did not stop as Jordan Derkack found an open Bryan Etemnu for three and the lead and Lawler erupted as loud as it ever had.

Down the stretch, things slowed down and health proved detrimental for the Warriors. Jordan Derkack finished 1-11 from the field and 1-10 from beyond the arc. The three pointers weren’t working and MC could not buy a basket. The largest lead of the half was only 2 for the Warriors, that control lasted five minutes.

Towards the end, the game slowly pulled away from Merrimack. Wagner, from the near bottom of the NEC standings, completed a clean sweep of the 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the conference playoffs. They took their talons and swiped away MC’s hopes of a March Madness berth. Final Score 54-47, Wagner.

NUMBERS TO NOTE

Merrimack took 38 total three-point shots. Which tallies as the most they’ve attempted in a game all season. The second most they attempted was in their final regular season loss to SHU.

Wagner only had 7 players available for this game. They had three players (Tahron Allen, Javier Ezquerra, and Melvin Council, Jr.) who played the whole game. 

This season was Merrimack’s best in Division 1. They boasted a 21-12 regular season record and a conference best 13-3. 

This loss ends Merrimack’s five-season run with the Northeast Conference. They won three NEC Regular Season Championships, made two NEC Tournament Finals appearances, one Championship but no March Madness appearances. They’ll move on and play in the MAAC starting next season. 

MC IS ON THE RISE

Despite the loss, a positive takeaway from this game was the crowd at Lawler. The arena during Merrimack’s runs was SHAKING. It was truly a spectacle for the small, newly D-1 Catholic College and showcased the potential this school has for years to come. 

The team may have not won the championship and made it to the big dance. But what you can’t deny is the impact the MC Basketball team has made on this community. For years, Merrimack’s staple sport has just been Hockey. After these past few runs our Basketball program has made, some can argue that they’re without a doubt, on the rise to contend for that top spot among sports here. 

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