LEWISTON, ME – In a riveting NESCAC matchup, the Bates College Bobcats fended off the Williams College Ephs to narrowly win 70-68. Bates improves to 5-2 in the conference and 16-4 on the year, while Williams' record now stands at 12-8 and 3-4 in the NESCAC.
The teams were separated by only one point with less than a minute left, but Bates G Mike Boornazian pulled down a key offensive rebound to maintain possession for the leading Bobcats, thereby forcing the Ephs to foul. Graham Safford sunk his two free throws to extend the lead to three, and Daniel Wohl couldn't make an off-balance trey fall.
Two Bates free throws later, the game was sewn up as a Bobcat victory. Eph Daniel Aronowitz made a three-pointer at the buzzer, but those three points would not affect the final outcome, only the margin of defeat.
This final episode encapsulates one of the most striking statistical features of the game: Bates walloped the Ephs on the boards. Williams pulled down 26 rebounds and only 5 on offense, while Bates notched 43 boards and 17 offensive rebounds.
After the game, Williams head coach Kevin App acknowledged that, "We didn't rebound like we needed to." He added, "We shot it well, but we turned it over too much on offense and gave them too many second chances on defense. They're a really talented upperclassmen team."
Led by the 6'8" Malcolm Delpeche, Bates played stifling interior defense; Delpeche himself recorded 4 blocks and 4 offensive rebounds. Williams, as per usual, relied with success on their outside shooting; they sunk 13 of their 31 three-point attempts for a percentage of 41.9%.
Bates led early in the game by as many as ten points, but Williams came back on the strength of the shooting of Daniel Wohl and Hayden Rooke-Ley. The two captains made three consecutive three-pointers to catapult Williams back into the lead with 5 minutes left in the half. A last-second trey by Graham Safford for Bates tied the game up at 36 all going into halftime.
Wohl and Rooke-Ley were dominant in the first half, combining for 29 of the Ephs' 36 points and helping Williams to a 46.7% shooting percentage from behind the arc. Mike Boornazian and Graham Safford also entered double-digits for Bates in the first period, notching ten apiece.
After a high-scoring first half, the second half started very slowly; it took nine minutes for either team to score ten points. However, once the scoring got underway it rarely let up.
At around the midway point of the half, Graham Safford converted a three-point play to put the Bobcats up by four, but Williams answered with treys by Hayden Rooke-Ley and Ryan Kilcullen to reassert their lead.
A 9-3 run in the final five minutes featuring strong post play on both sides of the ball by Malcolm Delpeche and an electrifying dunk by his twin brother Marcus put Bates in the driver's seat with less than two minutes to play. The teams traded misses, but Daniel Wohl was able to convert a layup to cut the deficit to one. It was at this point that Boornazian came down with the key rebound that would ensure the Bobcat victory, 70-68.
Coach Kevin App was pleased with the poise his team showed playing in a packed and raucous gymnasium, saying, "I thought our guys handled it well. That was a great college basketball environment and a fun place to compete; they thrive off it."
Hayden Rooke-Ley led all scorers with 28 points, featuring 6 three-pointers, and Daniel Wohl recorded a double-double with 21 points and a game-high 11 boards. Graham Safford led the Bobcats with 21 points, while Marcus Delpeche recorded 10 rebounds for Bates.
The Bobcats shot 40.3% from the field and 31.8% from three-point range, while Williams made 42% of their shots and 41.9% of their trey attempts.
The Ephs are next in action against Tufts on Saturday, while Bates returns to the court to face Hamilton also on Saturday.