FITCHBURG, MA—After giving up a large first-half lead to a reinvigorated opponent, the Williams College Ephs (14-6, 2-4) held on against the Fitchburg State Falcons (10-10, 5-2) to take home a 68-64 victory.
Fitchburg matched quickness against size, but in the first half, they were unable to convert penetration into points. Guards Jaleel Bell and Leonny Burgos consistently found scoring opportunities, but they either failed to finish or passed off to big men Chima Ebele and Jalen Williams, who combined to go 0-6 in the first half. The Ephs' interior defense played a large part here: Kyle Scadlock led the way with three blocks and nine rebounds in the half, with supporting play by Matt Karpowicz and James Heskett to clamp down on Burgos and Bell's shenanigans on the inside.
While the Ephs didn't shoot spectacularly in the first half—40.6% from the field and 33.3% from three—they did most of their missing later in the half, racking up a lead that maxed out at 16 points in the first ten to twelve minutes. Kyle Scadlock opened the game with the Ephs' first six points, all from the paint, and Cole Teal followed up with back-to-back treys, the first two of his four in the first half, to put the score at 12-4.
Another putback by Scadlock, plus a layup and three-pointer by Dan Aronowitz, extended the Eph lead to 15, 21-6, with 12:24 to play in the half. At this point, the Ephs cooled off significantly, failing to make a field goal save two more Cole Teal treys until Marcos Soto knocked down one of his own with 3:37 remaining.
In the meantime, Fitchburg, though plagued by turnovers, fouls, and a difficulty hitting shots, didn't let the game slip away, never getting their deficit to single digits but holding the Williams lead to 13 at halftime.
The second half demonstrated that the Ephs' success in the first half had more to do with Fitchburg's failings than with their own success, as the Falcons came out re-energized and much more potent on the offensive end; they would shoot 42% in the second half compared with 30% in the first.
While a transition layup by Scadlock, post play by Aronowitz, and three-pointer by Mike Greenman seemed to reassert the momentum for Williams at the start of the second half, the Falcons cut the deficit to just five with 13 unanswered points, featuring six buckets by six different players. Dan Aronowitz halted the Fitchburg run with three-pointer and Chris Galvin followed up with a floater to put the lead back in double digits, 53-43 with six minutes elapsed in the half, but Fitchburg State had declared its intentions.
A free throw by Kyle Scadlock put Williams's point total at 57, but it would stay stuck there for the next six minutes as the Falcons went on another run, stringing together 12 straight points and taking a 59-57 lead with five minutes to play.
Whereas the first half saw the Falcons struggle to finish inside, in the second they were able to properly leverage their quickness and versatility to score on drives and step-back jumpers. More importantly, the Fitchburg squad was very aggressive on defense and on the whole outmatching the Ephs in terms of energy, running a full court press for the last ten minutes of the game and finding ways to the bucket while Williams gave up turnovers and missed three-pointers. The Ephs went 9-29 (31%) from the field and 3-11 (27%) from three-point in the second half.
After giving up the lead for the first time since the initial two minutes of the game, Williams looked to senior captain Dan Aronowitz, and Aronowitz did not disappoint. Cutting to the basket down the baseline, Aronowitz snapped the Ephs' scoring drought with a layup and followed up with a three-pointer from the left side, reasserting a three-point Williams lead. He then stole the ball on the other end and lured two Falcon defenders out of position with a shot fake to find Michael Kempton left open down low for two more points.
Fitchburg's energy had gotten the better of them, turning what had been an improvisational offensive attack into anarchy. A free throw by Cole Teal and two more by Aronowitz let Williams breathe a sigh of relief, up by seven with less than two minutes to play. Fitchburg had another run in them—Jaleel Bell got a post bucket to go, followed by a Lance Hill steal and Jalen Williams putback—but, forced to foul in the final minute and unable to hit desperation three-point attempts, the Falcons' final chance at the victory slipped away with the seconds on the clock. Williams hung on for a 68-64 victory.
Dan Aronowitz and Kyle Scadlock both registered double-doubles in the game: Aronowitz led the Ephs with 21 points while Scadlock had 16, and each pulled down 11 rebounds. Cole Teal added a further 13 points, almost entirely on the strength of his four first-half three-pointers. Jaleel Bell led all scorers with 22 points for the Falcons and notched eight rebounds. Leonny Burgos put up 12 points, while Joshua Bosworth had nine points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Williams shot 36.1% from the field and 31% from three-point on the game, and the Falcons didn't perform much better, making 36.5% of their shots and just 2 of 13 long-range attempts.
Fitchburg State returns to action at home against Bridgewater State on Saturday, while Williams next plays against Little Three rival Wesleyan University at Chandler Gymnasium on Friday, February 4.