CLINTON, NY -- Despite trailing by as much as twelve in the second half, the Hamilton College Continentals came back to defeat the Williams College Ephs 67-64. Hamilton outscored Williams 17-6 in the last 5 minutes to shock the Ephs for their first NESCAC victory of the year.
Williams falls to 11-7 on the year and 2-3 in conference play, while Hamilton improves to the same record, 11-7, and 1-4 in the NESCAC.
The contest came down to their very last seconds, but the most important play for the Continentals came with 20 seconds left when Hamilton held a one-point lead. Williams almost forced a shot clock violation with stout defensive play, and Jack Dwyer just barely got off a shot before the buzzer. The ball rimmed out and headed for the sideline, but Peter Kazickas dove to save the ball.
Kazickas batted the ball back to Dwyer, forcing the Ephs to foul. Dwyer sunk both his shots to put Williams in a three-point hole with 20 seconds left; the Ephs were unable to escape the deficit, and Hamilton locked up the game with excellent free throw shooting in the final seconds.
Williams led by three at halftime after a back-and-forth first half, and the Ephs launched a 10-0 run five minutes into the half to go up by double digits. Cole Teal drilled back-to-back three-pointers, followed by a pull-up jumper by Mike Greenman and a floater by Daniel Aronowitz. This gave Williams a 50-39 lead with 13 minutes to play.
Williams led comfortably for the next several minutes and looked sure to walk away with the victory. However, both teams went ice cold for about three minutes, and it was Hamilton who was able to shake off the ice first.
Peter Kazickas made a layup and Joseph Lin converted two foul shots, both off of turnovers by Williams. Hamilton continued crawling back, as Williams still struggled to score against the intense defense of the Continentals. The Ephs failed to score a field goal in the final 3 and a half minutes, allowing the Continentals to score 8 straight points including Dwyer's hugely important foul shots with 20 seconds remaining.
Hamilton elected to foul Mike Greenman rather than allow the Ephs a potentially game-tying three-point opportunity. This stratagem worked, as Greenman was only able to score two points from the line and Peter Kazickas converted his foul shots on the other end. Williams couldn't get a desperation shot off as time expired, and the Continentals won 67-64.
Hayden Rooke-Ley, who had been sidelined with an injury since January 3rd, led all scorers in his return with 21 points on 7 three-pointers, 6 of which came in the first half. Peter Kazickas, whose hustle play and free throws in the final seconds sealed the win, led the Continentals with 18. Ajanni Santos led the game in rebounds with 7.
Both teams shot over 50% from the field in the first half but cooled off significantly in the second half; Hamilton shot 45.5% on the game while Williams made 47.8% of their shots.
Williams head coach Kevin App was glad to have Rooke-Ley back, saying, "It was good to get Hayden back; he's another threat on offense and that helps to stretch out the defense."
However, coach App also spoke about his team playing "tight down the stretch." He added, "I think we got more worried about losing than winning the game [when we led by 12], so we didn't attack and we turned it over instead. We got tight, and that makes you miss free throws; no matter what you've got to finish the game."
The Ephs will look to snap their two-game losing streak against non-conference opponent Castleton in Williamstown on Tuesday, while Hamilton will try to continue their success versus Keystone on Monday.