Williamstown, MA- The Williams Ephs ended their three-game losing streak against the Wesleyan Cardinals, winning a 62-60 game that was as gritty as the score suggests.
The win pushed the Ephs' record to 15-6 (3-4 NESCAC), while Wesleyan drops to 16-5 (4-4 NESCAC).
Senior Daniel Aronowitz led the Ephs with 17 points, while James Heskett and Kyle Scadlock chipped in with 14 and 11 respectively. For Wesleyan, Harry Rafferty poured in 23 to lead all scorers, while Jordan Bonner put up 12.
An excited Eph coach Kevin App had faith in his team the whole game despite offense not coming easily, saying, "We came out with a lot of energy and excitement, and once we settled down, we were pretty good. I'm proud of our guys, early in the season we don't win that game if things don't go our way right away. We've been working on it all year, just sticking with it and playing a full 40 minutes. We buckled down and played some of our best defense of the year in the first half to keep us in it, and then went on a run to lead at halftime."
The first half of this NESCAC matchup was characterized by offenses struggling to convert on successive possessions. Williams shot just 33.3% from the field in the first 20 minutes, while Wesleyan struggled more, making just 28.6% of its attempts.
However, Wesleyan did jump out to a lead in the first five minutes, taking advantage of careless Eph turnovers, travel violations, and low-percentage shots to begin the game on a 10-0 run. Finally, almost six minutes into the game, Williams scored its first points on a contested three by Daniel Aronowitz, and thus began the Ephs' 25-8 run that stretched over the remaining 14 minutes of the half. From that point on in the first half, Wesleyan was just 3-17 from the field and committed 10 turnovers, and it wasn't just improved Williams defense that made for such a skid-the Cardinals were justsloppy on offense. The first 20 minutes were punctuated with just over a minute left by an alley-oop from Aronowitz to Scadlock that sent the already energized crowd into an absolute frenzy. Williams led 25-18 at the break.
The second half picked up where the first left off, as Williams quickly led by 11 thanks to a James Heskett corner three, but Wesleyan would soon respond and the final 20 became much more of a tit-for-tat affair.
Once the Cardinals scored seven unanswered to cut that 11-point deficit down to four, Williams led by more than two possessions only once, yet never gave up the lead. That served as a testament to the team's ability to not rattle in close games, a skill that would come in handy soon.
On the other side, Wesleyan never lost focus and refused to let the Ephs' lead grow, and with under four minutes to go in the game, the Cardinals made their move. Harry Gardiner made a three to cut the deficit to four, then Rafferty made a clutch step back jumper on the right wing to narrowly beat the shot clock, making it a one-possession game with just over two minutes left.
But to their credit, the Ephs held firm and keyed in on Rafferty. Aronowitz responded to Rafferty's 3 with a three of his own, and Mike Greenman picked off one of Rafferty's dribbles, leading to a fastbreak and subsequent foul on the other end. Williams then made seven of its last eight free throw attempts to seal the win.
App gushed about his team's ability to handle the pressure-filled last minutes, saying, "We know we're at our best when we're confident and loose...and we were gonna get the ball to our guys and make free throws to finish out the game."
Williams continues its season on Sunday, hosting Connecticut College at 2 P.M., while Wesleyan plays again on Tuesday night at Amherst at 7 P.M.