WILLIAMSTOWN – A stellar defensive performance helped the Williams Ephs (8-1) top the Springfield Pride (4-2) by a final score of 68-51. Springfield's 51 points marked the lowest total allowed by the Ephs this season.
"We have some veterans and versatility," said Williams Head Coach Kevin App. "When they play together with confidence on defensive end we can put a lot of pressure on other teams. The shots will come and go. I was very pleased with our defensive energy against a good offensive individual player and team."
In a matchup between two strong regional opponents, Williams and Springfield both hoped to add an important nonconference victory to their resumes before the start of conference play. The Ephs would once again be without leading scorer Kyle Scadlock, who will miss the rest of the season with an injury. But Williams responded well in their first game without Scadlock, having dismantled Fitchburg State by a 50-point margin on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Pride entered today's contest coming off an 18-point home loss to Trinity College.
Both teams dug in on defense, making easy baskets difficult to come by. Williams has allowed an average of just 63.5 points per game, while Springfield has allowed just 64.6. James Heskett proved to be the Ephs' most formidable offensive weapon early on. The junior battled his way to 15 first half points including 3-5 from deep.
The Ephs created some separation with an 11-2 run towards the end of the half. Cole Teal capped off the run with a three from the top of the arc that gave Williams its first double-digit lead of the game at 34-23 with 1:21 left. After a timeout, Springfield chipped away at the deficit, but Williams still led 34-28 at the half.
From the beginning, Williams looked determine to stop Jake Ross, a sophomore guard who has averaged 25 points per game so far this season. Multiple players drew the tough assignment, and together they held the d3hoops.com Preseason All-American to only 8 points on 4-13 shooting in the first half.
"We were able to throw a lot of different guys at him to prevent him from gettin in a rhythm," said Coach App. "We could put Cole [Teal] on him and he's more of a guard. We could put a bigger guy on him like James [Heskett]. Then Henry [Feinberg] could come in and be physical with him. With a guy like that, you can't let him go one on one. Our weak side defenders made it feel like he had less space."
Jolted by a strong finish to the first half, Williams emerged from the locker room reenergized and looking to attack. The Ephs put on an offensive clinic of unselfishness and quick ball movement that led to myriad wide-open looks. In the first ten minutes, Williams increased their 6-point half time lead to 20. Much of the run came with non-starters in the game. But the Ephs never relented on defense and Springfield never made a serious run to get back in the game.
"That's how we want to be and look," said Coach App. "We think one of our biggest strengths is our depth. We've seen the sophomore class have a jump in confidence this semester. It's been fun to watch them play."
Bobby Casey stole the show in the second half with a barrage of three-pointers. He finished with a game-high 20 points and 6 rebounds on 6-9 shooting from three. Heskett did not score in the second half, but still finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. As a team, the Ephs shot 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) from three.
Andy McNulty led the Pride with 12 points. Ross finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds on 5-17 shooting.
After a three-week break, Williams returns to action against Hamline on December 29th at 9 p.m.