MIDDLEBURY, VT – The Williams men's basketball team rallied from down 18 at the start of the second half to defeat the Middlebury Panthers (12-6, 3-2 NESCAC) 64-61. Michael Mayer and Daniel Wohl each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to give the Ephs (16-3, 5-1 NESCAC) the three-point lead, and a 3-pointer from Dylan Sinnickson was off the back iron as time expired.
Following the game's opening basket, the Panthers led the entire first half. They started to take over decisively with a 3-ball from Matt St. Amour with 7:38 to play in the opening frame. Another Panther long ball from Hunter Merryman gave them the 29-21 lead. Mayer went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe for the Ephs before Jack Roberts hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to nine. Taylor Epley responded for the Ephs with a long ball of his own off of a pretty pass from Daniel Wohl, but Middlebury ended the half on a 10-0 run. Roberts and St. Amour each finished inside before Dylan Sinnickson ended the half with a pair of 3-pointers that gave the Panthers the 41-25 lead going into the break.
Out of the locker rooms, the Panthers quickly pushed their lead to 18 with a finish in the paint from Sinnickson. The Ephs began to fight their way back as Mayer hit a pair of free throws and Epley added a lay-up and a 3-ball to cut the lead to 43-32. Sinnickson hit a jumper before Mike Greenman hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to ten. James Jensen finished inside for the Panthers, but Greenman assisted fellow first-year Duncan Robinson on a 3-ball that cut the deficit to single digits just under six minutes into the second half.
The two teams traded buckets for several minutes and the Ephs started to get back into the game with six minutes left to play. With the Panthers up twelve, Mayer finished in the paint to cut it to 57-47. He then hit a pair of free throws before Greenman hit another 3-ball for the Ephs. A long ball from Epley cut the Panther lead to just two, but Roberts finished a lay-up for Middlebury to push the lead back to 59-55 with 3:24 left in the game. Robinson hit a pair of free throws for the Ephs, but a Panther lay-up from Merryman kept the Ephs down four. Epley hit yet another three for the Ephs to cut it to 61-60 with 1:40 left to play. The Ephs forced a travel on the Panthers' next possession and got the ball back with a chance to take their first lead since the game's opening basket. Out of a Williams timeout, the Ephs passed around before Robinson drove to the hoop, where three defenders crashed on him. He dished the ball to Mayer open on the opposite side of the paint. Mayer was fouled on the shot and hit both free throws to give the Ephs the one-point lead with 38.7 seconds left. The Panthers ran a play to get Merryman wide open on the left baseline, but his 3-point attempt went off the far rim. Wohl was immediately fouled on the rebound and hit both opportunities from the charity stripe with eight seconds to play. Sinnickson's long desperation three did not fall, and the Ephs walked off the court with the win.
Leading the way tonight was Epley with 19 for Williams. Fifteen of his points came on threes. Mayer added 15 and Robinson ten for the Ephs, who were 40.0% from the floor on the night. The Ephs shot just 34.5% from the field in the opening frame.
Sinnickson led the Panthers with 16, 12 of which came in the first half. Merryman added 15. Middlebury shot 50.0% from the field in the first half but just 43.9% in the second stanza.
Said head coach Mike Maker after the game, "I think it says a lot about our players. They have a will to win and played with a lot of determination and guts. They refused to lose, and that was the best defensive effort we've had all season. We made winning plays on the offensive end, particularly down the stretch."
He added, "This is as good a win as I can remember – especially on the road. We have a lot of respect for Middlebury."
Said Maker about star Epley, who was averaging in the high teens at the start of the year but just six points per game over the last five games, "He's a warrior. He's had an unbelievable career. Tonight it was simple for him. He's a competitive young man and a terrific player, and tonight the ball went in. Usually he draws the toughest assignment on defense. Taylor's a winner. Like I told you last week, a lot of people are asking what is wrong with Taylor. Nothing is wrong with Taylor. He's a go-to guy for us, and our players and staff have a lot of confidence in him. He was huge tonight when we needed him most. That's what competitive greatness is: being at your best when your best is needed. He certainly was."
The Ephs will travel to Stevens on Tuesday. Game time is set for 6:00 PM.