AMHERST, MA – The Ephs lost a heartbreaker in overtime today to rival Amherst. Entering the game, the Ephs (13-1) and Jeffs (12-0) were two of 14 undefeated teams left in Division III. Although both Williams and Amherst are members of the NESCAC, today's game did not count towards league play; it did, however, count towards Little Three competition. The NESCAC game will take place when the two teams meet again at Williams on February 12th. The final score of today's matchup was 92-89.
The game was exciting from the beginning tipoff to the final seconds. The Ephs were able to push a lead to seven in the first half just over five minutes into the game. The lead was the biggest of the day for either team, and Amherst quickly rallied to keep the game close.
The second half was back-and-forth the whole time. Both teams had opportunities to pull away in the final moments, but neither was able to take advantage of them. With two minutes to play, James Wang knocked down a shot from behind the arc to give the Ephs the three-point lead. Just under thirty seconds later, Wang came up huge on defense as well when he stole the ball. Unable to convert, however, due to a turnover by Wang, the Ephs found themselves back on the defensive end where Connor Meehan hit two free throws to pull the Jeffs within one. With 49 seconds to play, Nate Robertson went to the free throw line. After hitting the first one, he missed the second. The miss was Robertson's only from the line on the day. Aaron Toomey, who was unstoppable for the Jeffs, took advantage of the miss to tie up the game with a quick layup. To end the period, both Wang and Toomey missed shots from the field. The two teams found themselves headed into overtime with a 74-74 tie.
The Jeffs led for the entire overtime. Peter Kaasila started the period with a jump shot. Although James Klemm hit two threes to keep the Ephs in the game, the Jeffs were too strong and pushed the lead to as many as six on the shoulders of Toomey and Meehan. Wang hit two 3-pointers of his own in the final eight seconds, but the late push was not enough to overcome Amherst's strong offensive game.
The Ephs played their fourth game in a row without star center Troy Whittington who is out due to an injury. Whittington averages 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a game for the Ephs.
Leading the way for the Ephs today was Wang with 27 points. Robertson added another 19 points for Williams; Robertson played the most of any Eph and was in the game for 40 minutes. Harlan Dodson and Klemm were also in double digits for the Ephs. Williams shot 50% from the field in each period today. The Ephs went just 58.8% from the line on the day.
Toomey scored 21 points for the Jeffs in today's game. Toomey also had eight rebounds. Meehan added another 16 points for Amherst. The Ephs were able to hold Amherst to 43.8% from the field and 29.2% from behind the arc.
Said Coach Mike Maker after today's loss, "The difference in today's game was two things: their offensive rebounding, which allowed them to have many more opportunities than we did, and they went to the foul line many more times than we did."
Today's game ties up the series 3-3 between the two schools since Coach Maker began coaching at Williams. The Ephs still lead the overall series between the two teams 114-88.
Although the Ephs were unable to get the victory today, Coach Maker remained proud of his team: "I'm really proud of our guys and the effort they gave today and how we shared the ball and represented our school. I'm disappointed we lost, but I am a proud coach."
Coach Maker also added, "We performed very well against one of the best teams in the country. We gave them everything we had, and today it wasn't good enough. I'm confident that we will be able to bounce back and play well next weekend."
The Ephs look to rebound at Bates on Friday at 6:00. It will be their first league matchup of the season.