ALLIANCE, OH — In an overtime contest that remained close the entire game, the Williams College Ephs (9-1) upset the 15th-in-the-nation Hope College Flying Dutchmen (7-3) by a score of 91-85, advancing to the championship of the Mount Union M-Club Classic Tournament.
Both teams exploded out of the gate, scoring twenty points, evenly split, in the first four minutes of play. The Flying Dutchmen relied on stellar defensive play to slow down the Ephs, at one point midway through the half notching three consecutive steals and finishing the game with eleven total. Yet the Ephs capitalized on the possessions they got past the hope defense; Williams shot 58.6% from the field in the first half.
Williams was down by six following Hope's string of steals when senior tri-captain Dan Aronowitz turned it on, scoring seven of the Ephs' next nine points and setting up Bobby Casey to take a 27-25 lead for Williams with a three-pointer.
Seven unanswered points by the Flying Dutchmen forced a Williams timeout with 6:39 to play in the half, but the Ephs came roaring out of the timeout, launching into a 14-1 run over the next five minutes. James Heskett kicked it off with five quick points, Marcos Soto added two offensive rebounds and a putback two, and Cole Teal capped the run with a three-pointer to make the score 41-33, the largest lead of the entire game for either team.
In the final minute of play, a pair of buckets by Keith Brushwyler and Dante Hawkins, plus a free throw by Brushwyler cut the Eph lead to three, 41-38, when the first half buzzer sounded.
Hope came out of the locker room looking to continue their comeback and did so emphatically behind back-to-back treys by Chad Carlson and three fast breaks off of steals in as many minutes. Down 50-44 after this offensive blitz, Williams regrouped with a timeout and worked their way back behind stout defense of their own. Marcos Soto, Kyle Scadlock, and Chris Galvin registered three consecutive steals for Williams, and a pair of free throws by Soto capped a 10-2 run to effectively knot the game up with 14 minutes to play.
The margin stayed within one point for the next several minutes, and both teams went cold from the floor midway through the period, failing to score for nearly four minutes. Williams cracked a three-point lead twice in the last five minutes but failed to extend it, and a Chad Carlson layup gave Hope a 70-69 lead with one minute to play. A foul by Luke Dreyer put Dan Aronowitz on the stripe with 14 seconds to play, but his only missed free throw of the night came at an inopportune time, leaving the game tied at 70 when time expired.
Overtime told a similar story of trading leads and tight play; an opening trey by Kyle Scadlock was immediately answered by a Luke Dreyer layup and Dante Hawkins three. A bit over halfway through the five-minute extra period with Williams down by two, Michael Kempton was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound and made his first free throw. Kempton missed the second, however, but this set up James Heskett to retake the lead for Williams with a three-point shot. Heskett then converted both free throws and Bobby Casey sunk a bucket with 1:11 to play, giving the Ephs an 83-77 lead.
Two threes from Chad Carlson gave Williams a scare, cutting their lead to two, but perfect free throw shooting by Mike Greenman and Kyle Scadlock down the stretch preserved the Williams lead as Hope resorted to intentional fouls in the final minute. Carlson missed a last-second three attempt and the final buzzer sounded with Williams up 91-85.
After the game, Williams head coach Kevin App expressed his pride for his players, saying, "We played a great opponent in Hope, and I'm really proud of the guys for being able to find a way to beat a very good team. It was a great effort by everyone across the board." Coach App acknowledged Hope's penchant for stealing the ball, but praised his team for overcoming that challenge: "We always say that it's a forty, or in this case forty-five, minute game, so even when we hit tough stretches we were able to come back and win."
Harrison Blackledge led all scorers with 21 points for Hope, while Chad Carlson contributed 20 on the strength of six three-pointers and Dante Hawkins added a further sixteen. Dennis Towns led the Flying Dutchmen in rebounds with seven.
Dan Aronowitz led the Ephs with 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Kyle Scadlock had 19 points for the Ephs, and James Heskett contributed 15 of his own. Williams made 49.2% of their shots but only 30.4% from three-point. Hope shot 46.6% from the field and 38.7 from long distance, but was abysmal from the charity stripe, making only five of their twelve attempts.
Coach App talked about the excitement firing the Ephs, who had not played a game since Dec. 10: "This is a team that really enjoys playing and working hard together. It's great to see family and rest up, but everyone is really excited to see how this team will continue to grow together."
Williams will play the winner of Mount Union vs. Wilkes tomorrow at 3:00 EST for the M-Club Classic title, while Hope will play the loser of that matchup in the consolation game at 1:00.