Williamstown, MA – The Williams College Ephs (13-3) beat The Amherst Mammoths (9-6) in a Wednesday night nail-biter.
Today's matchup was the 222nd time Williams and Amherst have played each other. Coming into the matchup Williams held a 120-101-win total advantage. Today's game is a Little Three game, which means that the result goes towards their overall record, but not their NESCAC record.
"I love it." Head coach Kevin App said about the atmosphere of Little Three games. "There's nothing more rewarding, for me as a coach, than seeing a great crowd and environment for great games. We've given them a bunch of great games, especially against the Little Three opponents. It's also great to see the alumni come back and how much they remember about the rivalries, and that's what makes them fun."
Both teams came out of the gate with intensity, aggressive defense and desire to run in transition. The Ephs jumped out to an early lead with a three and an and-1 from junior James Heskett. Then Mammoth forward Joseph Schneider scored three buckets for Amherst putting the score at 9-6.
The battle made its way to the paint where the teams traded baskets. Matthew Karpowicz fueled the Ephs' offense with a couple post moves and a reverse layup off of the pass from senior Cole Teal. As the Ephs started to gain a lead, Amherst hit a three to stop a potential Ephs run. Eph Junior Michael Kempton got on the board to bring the Ephs up 8 at 21-13.
The Mammoths battled back on a 10-0 run polished off by a three in transition by Johnny McCarthy. The run put them up 23-21 and resulted in a Williams timeout.
After the timeout, Amherst nailed the first shot with a three from Grant Rogerson, but the Ephs were quick to answer with a three and a free show by Bobby Casey. After several possessions of tough defense, Bobby Casey shook loose from his defender and put the Ephs up by 1. Moments later Matthew Karpowicz put the Ephs up three with an absolutely electric dunk. However, Amherst was quick to even the score with a three from Johnny McCarthy.
The teams traded baskets until the end of the half. Heading into the locker rooms the Ephs were tied up with the Mammoths at 37-37.
At the half, the Ephs were shooting 46.7 % (14-30) from the field and leading the Ephs in scoring was Matthew Karpowicz with 10 points. Michael Kempton led the team with 4 rebounds and Cole Teal lead the team with 3 assists. The Mammoths were shooting 40% (14-35) from the field. At the half, Michael Riopel led the Mammoths in scoring with 14 points.
The Mammoths struck first in the second half with a lay-up from Johnny McCarthy and a free throw from Michael Riopel. After several back-and-forth possessions, James Heskett tied the game up at 40-40 with a three off of the assist from Michael Kempton.
Mammoth guard Michael Riopel got the hot hand and put the Mammoths up 5, but the Ephs regained control with 14:21 left in the half. Solid defense on both sides kept the game locked in at 49-47 with an Eph advantage. Moments later, Fru Che got open on a fast break and tied the game at 49-49. Amherst called a timeout after the bucket.
Coming out of the Williams timeout, sophomore Henry Feinberg put the Ephs up with a corner three off of the pass from Marcos Soto. The Mammoths battled back after several possessions and evened the score at 54-54. With 10:39 left in the game the Mammoths had an opportunity to go up two with Michael Riopel at the line but he made 1 of 2 free throws. The Ephs regained the lead seconds later off of 2-2 shooting from the line by Matthew Karpowicz. Williams extended their lead to 4 after a three-pointer from James Heskett.
With 5:38 left in the game, Amherst took a 1 point lead going into a Williams timeout. Several possessions went by and both teams were playing lockdown defense and with 3:30 left in the game the Mammoths led 65-64.
After a Williams timeout, Bobby Casey knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Ephs up 2 with 3:20 left to go in the game. A minute and a half later, Bobby Casey added to the lead with a floater over two Mammoth defenders to put the Eph up 4. With 1:34 left to go, Mammoth guard Michael Riopel snuck backdoor and cut the Ephs lead to 2, which led to an Amherst timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Ephs got a solid look, but could not convert. The Mammoths had an opportunity to even the score, but Senior Cole Teal secured the defensive rebound to kill that Mammoth possession and give the Ephs the ball with 45 seconds left. The Ephs dribbled the ball up to half and called a timeout with 33 seconds left. Out of the timeout, the Mammoths played close defense and almost forced a shot clock violation, but James Heskett took a step back three as the time expired to put the Ephs up 5 with 14 seconds left in the game.
After the bucket, the Mammoths raced down the court and got a quick layup to cut the lead down to 3 with 7.9 seconds left in the game. The Ephs inbounded the ball and immediately Cole Teal was fouled.
Teal had the 1 and 1 with 7.1 seconds left and he missed the front end and the Mammoths secured the rebound and raced down the court to try to even the score. The ball ended up in Michael Riopel's hand. He pump-faked to get himself open and fired a three just before time expired, but the shot bounced off the rim and the Ephs won 72-69.
When asked about his team's composure down the stretch, Coach App said, "I think that's just how you learn and grow throughout the years. We have a veteran group, so they have been in a lot of different situations. We were disappointed in how we played down the stretch against Tufts. So, I was very proud of how we kept our poise, kept to our principles defensively to get some huge stops to keep us within striking distance, and the couple big shots that went in."
The Ephs finished the game with shooting 45.5% (25-55) from the field. Leading the Ephs in scoring was James Heskett with 22 points and the game-winner.