SALEM, MA – In a very exciting game between two very strong teams, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Engineers (9-1) barely squeaked out a victory over the Williams College Ephs (7-3), winning with a score of 73-71.
Both teams held significant leads at different points in the game, but neither squad was able maintain such a lead for a prolonged period of time. In the end, the game was decided by a three-point shot in the last ten seconds by Zach Karalis that gave WPI their final two-point advantage.
After a scoreless first three and a half minutes due largely to missed shots and turnovers by both teams, Eph Daniel Wohl opened the scoring with a put-back down low which was quickly answered by a three-pointer by Aaron Davis. WPI built an early 11-4 lead after making five consecutive foul shots, but Williams responded ably.
Daniel Wohl sunk a pull-up jumper from the elbow, followed by an athletic bucket from the block by Ryan Kilcullen and a three-point-play by Mike Greenman to even the score at 11. WPI jumped ahead again with a quick five points, but Williams clawed back, tying the game at 16 midway through the first period.
Williams slowly built a modest lead that culminated with an 8-point lead with 2:40 remaining in the half, but this time it was WPI that bounced back, pulling within one point, 28-27. Hayden Rooke-Ley gave the Ephs some breathing room with a trey from the corner, the last bucket of the half.
Despite only shooting 22.2% from the field, WPI managed stay with the much more efficient Williams offense thanks to tight defensive play and success at the free throw line.
Both teams exploded out of the half, putting up twelve points each in just the first three and a half minutes. A three-point shot by Domenick Mastascusa followed by a layup by Zach Karalis retook the lead for the Engineers, but Hayden Rooke-Ley would take it back for Williams with an athletic layup of his own.
After the teams traded three-pointers, WPI scored ten unanswered points to go up 57-47 by taking advantage of several Williams misses in addition to buckets by Clyde Niba and Chris Rodgers. However, as tended to happen in this game, the exact reverse then happened in Williams' favor.
WPI missed several three-pointers in a row and the Ephs were able to roar back with twelve straight points featuring a three-point-play by Daniel Wohl and a trey by Mike Greenman, putting the Ephs back up by two.
Zach Karalis knotted the teams at 59 with a layup with 5:52 left to play, and after Clyde Niba converted a three-point-play to give the Engineers a 62-59 lead, WPI held on to a slim one- to two-point lead.
With only 1:41 remaining in the game, Mike Greenman sunk a trey from way downtown to put the Ephs back on top 69-68, only to be answered by a turnaround jumper by Sean Doncaster. After WPI was unable to take advantage of an Eph turnover in the final minute, Ryan Kilcullen converted a putback with 15 seconds remaining in regulation to give Williams a one-point lead.
However, Zach Karalis drained a three-pointer with 8 seconds left. Hayden Rooke-Ley's desperation shot was no good, and the final buzzer sounded with WPI over Williams, 73-71.
Daniel Wohl was the game's leading scorer with 25 points, while Zach Karalis, in addition to his last-minute heroics, led WPI with 21 points. Wohl was also the game's leading rebounder, notching nine boards.
Williams shot an even 50% from the field and a solid 42.9% from behind the arc, while WPI made 40.7% of their shots and 41.4% of their long-distance attempts. Williams also struggled uncharacteristically from the charity stripe, making only 10 of their sixteen foul shots.
After the game, Williams head coach Kevin App praised his team saying, "I was really proud of our effort, especially coming off a long break with only a few days to prepare for this game. They did a great job to compete, and they kept fighting to put us in a position to win this game.
Coach App also praised WPI: This was two very good basketball teams, teams that make plays and shots…When it comes down to it, you've got to make plays, and they just made one more."
With the victory, the Engineers, ranked 11th in the country by d3hoops.com, won their 6th straight game, while Williams' loss snaps their 7-game win streak.
Williams will face the host of the tournament, Salem State, on Tuesday at 5, while WPI will play FDU-Forham at 3.