Ephs survive late rally to down Springfield 80-75

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team defeated the Springfield Pride (5-2) 80-75 today.  The Ephs (7-1) controlled much of the game, but a late rally from the Pride tied the game up with four minutes left to play.  The Ephs went 10-for-11 from the line in the final four minutes of the game to secure the victory.

Up 25-19 with nine minutes to play in the first, the Ephs began to pull away out of a timeout.  Taylor Epley beat three defenders on the way to the hoop for two.  On the ensuing possession, Daniel Wohl stole the ball and took it the length of the court – finishing with a beautiful dunk to give the Ephs the double-digit lead.  Ryan Kilcullen then stole the ball but was fouled on the way to the hoop by Larry Piretra, who was called for a technical.  Kilcullen hit both free throws, but the Ephs were unable to convert on the extra possession.

Springfield looked to get back in the game on the shoulders of Robbie Burke.  Burke had a nice backdoor and finish in the paint.  He then took an offensive charge a few possessions later.  Tim Swenson finished off of the resulting possession to cut the lead to ten.

The two teams traded hoops for much of the rest of the half.  With just over two minutes to play and the Ephs up 38-27, Alex Garstka drove baseline to cut the Eph lead to single digits.  Wohl responded for the Ephs with a beautiful three-ball from the top right part of the key before Swenson finished for the Pride.  With the Ephs unable to convert off of their next possession, Springfield had the final possession of the opening frame.  Nick Sienkiewicz drove through traffic into the lane and passed to Swenson, who narrowly beat the buzzer to cut the Eph lead to 41-33 going into the break.

Epley led all scorers in the first half with 13 points.  Wohl added 10 for the Ephs. Garstka and Swenson recorded 12 and 10 points respectively for the Pride in the opening frame.

Out of the break, the Pride got some momentum when Sean Martin stole the ball off of the Ephs' opening possession.  The steal resulted in a finish in the paint from Swenson to cut the Eph lead to six.  Despite forcing another Eph turnover on the next possession, the Pride were unable to convert. Epley responded for the Ephs with a long-ball from the top left part of the key before Burke finished in the paint off of an offensive rebound. A 2-for-2 performance from Rooke-Ley at the charity space kept the Eph lead at nine. Another pair of free throws from Rooke-Ley and a baseline three-pointer from Duncan Robinson pushed the lead to 14 just over four minutes into the second stanza. However, a pair of finishes in the paint from Swenson and a lay-up from Josh Downes cut the lead to eight. Wohl drove baseline and finished a pretty floater to push the Eph lead back to double digits with just under 13 on the clock.

The Pride continued to fight, and they cut the lead to seven with a three-point play from Martin, who drove to the hoop for two and was fouled on the play. He converted the three-point play with 12:08 on the clock.  On the next Pride possession, Nick McKenna hit a long-ball from the top left part of the key.  John Weinheimer responded for the Ephs. He took a defensive rebound the length of the court for two.  He was fouled on the play but was unable to convert the and-one opportunity.

After trading hoops for several minutes, the Pride cut the lead to three with eight left to play off of a three-ball from Piretra.  The Ephs were forced to call a timeout after Piretra stole the ball on their next possession and took it the length of the court for two to cut the Eph lead to 61-60.  Out of the timeout, Kilcullen hit a three-ball from the top-of-the-key for the Eph to push the lead back to four.

However, the Pride refused to go away. With the Ephs up 66-62 with 5:33 on the clock, McKenna swooshed a three-ball from the right baseline to cut the Eph lead to one with just under five minutes to play. A 1-for-2 performance from the line from Swenson tied the game up at 66 all with 4:12 left on the clock.

The Ephs regained the lead after a pretty finish in the paint by Epley. They pushed the lead to four with a perfect performance from the charity space from Rooke-Ley before Garstka had a nice drive to the hoop for Springfield.  Down the other end, Robinson converted a three-point opportunity for the Ephs – finishing a lay-up and the and-one free throw with under two minutes to play.

The Ephs looked like they were going to keep the Pride at bay for the rest of the half when Sienkiewicz went 0-for-2 from the line with just over a minute left.  The Pride grabbed the offensive rebound, and Martin went to the line for Springfield.  He was only able to convert one of his shots.  On the ensuing Eph possession, however, Martin stole the ball and finished an easy lay-up to make it 74-73 with 22 seconds left to play.  The Pride fouled Robinson off of the in-bound play, and he hit both opportunities from the line. The Pride ran a play for McKenna on their next possession, but his three-ball fell short, and the Pride were unable to get back in the game.

All five Ephs starters were in double digits this evening. Epley led all scorers on the game with 20 points.  Robinson and Rooke-Ley each added 17, while Wohl and Kilcullen added 14 and 10 respectively.  Robinson narrowly missed a double-double with nine rebounds for the Ephs, who shot 46.8% from the field on the night.

Swenson recorded a double-double for the Pride with 19 points and 13 rebounds.  Garstka added 16, Burke 13, and Martin 12 for Springfield, who shot 44.8% from the floor.

Said head coach Mike Maker after the game, "We just beat an NCAA tournament team that has rich basketball tradition and is well-coached, tough-minded, and physical.  I'm really proud of our guys because for us to earn a win against that quality of an opponent with the challenges we've had in the first term - obviously, I'm really happy about that. I thought again we had balanced scoring, we got to the charity stripe, made big free throws, and got stops when we needed to."

Added Maker, "I think we've had balanced scoring all year - I think we have six guys averaging in double digits on the season.  Again, we're shooting a high percentage; we're well over fifty percent on the year from the field.  Our defensive field goal percentage is coming down some. I think we're getting better defensively, but we still have a ways to go. Our balance is the thing I like the most about our team.  We don't rely on one person.  We're team-oriented. When we move the ball and trust our teammates and our system, we're difficult to guard.  Having said that, I thought there were times tonight when we didn't pay attention to detail - clock management at the end of the game and some defensive assignments - but I'd rather have a team playing hard and with energy and missing assignments than the other way around."

Maker was pleased with his team's start to the year: "I give our guys credit - we're 7-1 going into exams and the holiday.  If you'd told me Mike Mayer, our All-American center, would be out for five games, and we'd have these kinds of performances - particularly from Ryan Kilcullen - it bodes well for the return from the holiday."

The Ephs will have a couple weeks off for winter vacation before returning to the court on December 29th. They will take on Washington College at Washington and Lee at 4:00 PM.

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