Ephs Upset Amherst 76-69 to Advance to NESCAC Semifinals

Ephs Upset Amherst 76-69 to Advance to NESCAC Semifinals

AMHERST, MA—The 6th-seeded Williams College Ephs (18-7) upset their arch-rivals, 3rd-seeded Amherst College, to earn a spot in the NESCAC Tournament semifinals. After a closely contested first half, Williams took control midway through the second and held off a last minute rally by Amherst, winning a 76-69 victory.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair that saw run answered by run, five ties, and five lead changes. Amherst's offense was characterized by success from behind the arc. Five of their first six buckets were three-pointers, and Amherst shot an impressive 50% from long distance in the half.

Williams, meanwhile, normally very reliant on the three, made just four of their eleven three-point shots, but the Ephs made up for this paucity of threes in other areas. Perhaps the most telling stat from the first half was the Ephs' 16-6 advantage in points in the paint; eight of Dan Aronowitz's twelve first-half points came on layups.

Amherst jumped out to an early lead thanks to treys by Jayde Dawson and Jacob Nabatoff, but Williams soon equalized with long balls by Bobby Casey and James Heskett. Four of the first six made shots were from beyond the three-point.

Amherst recovered in convincing fashion from a brief three-point deficit with three consecutive three-pointers, two of which came from Johnny McCarthy. Another three by Jeff Racy in response to a Matthew Karpowicz dunk solidified a four-point lead for Amherst.

Kicked off by a steal and transition dunk by Kyle Scadlock with eight and a half minutes remaining in the half, the Ephs put together an 8-0 run featuring back-to-back three-pointers by James Heskett and Dan Aronowitz and capped by a nice cut to the hoop by Aronowitz. 

Amherst's David George broke the streak with a putback down low, and Jayde Dawson single-handedly tied up the game with a three-pointer plus a foul shot with 3:40 to play in the half. The teams remained deadlocked for the remainder of the half. Dan Aronowitz converted a three-point play in the final minute to give Williams the 31-30 lead that they took into the half.

Williams head coach Kevin App was proud of his team's resilience in the first half. "Amherst came out and made several runs in the first half, and we were able to answer them all. Our competitive energy and focus were at a really high level, and it showed."

The second half proceeded for the first eight minutes in precisely the same manner as the first. Until Chris Galvin's three gave Williams a 43-41 lead with 13:50 to play, a one-point lead had oscillated between the teams for all but ten seconds of the half. Galvin's lead was extended a couple minutes later by a Bobby Casey layup, but Eric Conklin cut the Eph lead back to two with a post bucket.

It was at this point, with 11:27 to play, that the game shifted immensely. Amherst would not make another field goal for over eight minutes, while Williams found their groove in a serious way, putting together fifteen unanswered points. Nine of those points came from Kyle Scadlock, who kicked off the run with a reverse layup off a nice cut to the bucket. A mixup in the Amherst defense left Scadlock all alone at the top of the key on the next possession, and he made them pay with the wide open three-pointer, giving Williams the largest lead of the game for either team, seven points.

Scadlock wasn't done. Next he blocked a three-point attempt by Johnny McCarthy and converted a tough second-chance bucket on the other end to make the score 52-43. Not to be outdone, Dan Aronowitz and Cole Teal then nailed back-to-back three-pointers, extending the Eph run to thirteen unanswered. Two foul shots by Scadlock set the score at 60-43 five minutes after Conklin had pulled Amherst within two.

The Ephs cooled off significantly after this, relying on three-point shots that refused to fall, but Amherst could not take advantage; the teams combined for four points over the next three minutes. Feeling the pressure, Michael Riopel snapped Amherst's drought form the field with a layup, but a pair of foul shots by Marcus Soto maintained the lead at fifteen.

With 2:15 to play, Amherst began fouling Williams players to buy time, executing this strategy with remarkable success. Reid Berman sunk consecutive quick threes while Williams struggled in the bonus; Amherst cut the Eph lead to seven at one point. However, as the Ephs entered the double bonus, Amherst's three-point shooting faltered, and Williams nudged their lead back up to 10 points. Two Amherst treys in the final thirty seconds cut their final deficit to just seven, but Williams left the court with the all-important victory, 76-69.

"We really showed today how dynamic we can be when our guys play to their strengths," coach App commented after the game. "We stuck to what we wanted to do on offense and played good, hard defense."

On the game, Amherst shot 36.9% for the field and 39.4% from three-point, but those numbers do little to illustrate the devastating offensive drought they suffered in the middle of the second half. Before Riopel's layup with three minutes to play, Amherst was 5-23 (21.7%) from the field and 1-10 from three-point, a stark contrast to their excellent three-point shooting in the first twenty minutes. Williams, meanwhile, shot a consistently solid game, ending with a 47.2% mark form the field and 36% from long range.

Daniel Aronowitz led all scorers with 22 points, moving him to 19th all-time in program history, and he also tied Amherst's Johnny McCarthy for the game high in rebounds with eight. Kyle Scadlock, the engine of the Ephs' game-breaking run, finished the game with 16 points, Mike Greenman played a crucial role in maintaining the Williams lead down the stretch—he registered six points, all from the foul line in the final 2:15.

McCarthy led Amherst in points as well, notching 15, and he was followed closely by Jayde Dawson's 14 and Reid Berman's nine, all of which came from behind the arc.

In the semifinal match, Williams will face Tufts, who defeated Hamilton handily in their quarterfinal contest. The Jumbos beat the Ephs by 25 points in the final weekend of the regular season. The rematch will take place at Tufts next Saturday, with the tournament final following the next day.

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