Wheeler’s Second Half Fuels Career Day to Send Men’s Basketball Past Coast Guard

Dakota Wheeler
Dakota Wheeler

WORCESTER – Freshman Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA) scored 14 of his career and game-best 17 points in the second half as WPI pulled away with a 79-70 NEWMAC Men's Basketball triumph over visiting Coast Guard Saturday in Harrington Auditorium.

The Engineers (13-8, 7-3 NEWMAC) complete the season sweep of the Bears and have now won the last 22 games in the series. Coast Guard (9-10, 1-9) last defeated WPI, overall and in Harrington, in the 2008 NEWMAC finals.

The game featured 14 lead changes and nine ties – of which five of each occurred in the opening 20 minutes. Midway through the first junior Bryce Schroeder (Caldwell, ID) netted a 3-pointer to give the Bears a five point advantage. The Engineers evened it up at 21 following a layup by freshman Reid Walker (Lithia, FL) at 7:21. WPI then put together six points, highlighted by a triple by freshman Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ), for their largest lead of the half.

The second half remained in the 11-point window until Wheeler stretched a four-point cushion to eight to key a WPI 12-1 run with a pair of layups beginning at 9:39. The hosts' margin eventually increased to a game-high 17 with just under five minutes to play. Coast Guard kept it interesting by scoring 11 of the last 14 points of the game.

Walker totaled 16 points and finished a rebound shy of a double-double while sophomore Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA) handed in 14 points and senior Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA) chipped in with 11. Rodgers was also all over the box score with seven assists, six rebounds a steal and a block – all without committing a turnover.

Four of the five Coast Guard starters registered double digit scoring. Sophomore Justin Kane (Arnold, MD) led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds. Classmate Packy Witkowski (Melrose, MA) added 13 points as fellow sophomores Sean Graytok (Greensburg, PA) accumulated 11 and Noah Baldez (Lower Gywnedd, PA) finished with 10. Junior Luke Daniels (Paintsville, KY) handed out four assists and scored nine points.

WPI owned all statistical categories including 45-22 in the paint and 20-13 in bench points. The Engineers also committed three less turnovers and scored 14 of the 19 points as a result.

The Crimson and Gray travel to Babson Wednesday for an 8pm tilt while the Bears host MIT at 7:30pm.