WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – No. 9 men's basketball (20–5, 7–3 in the NESCAC) outlasted Trinity 73-71 this afternoon in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. The Ephs built a lead in the second half and withstood a late offensive surge from the Bantams to secure the win.
The second-seeded Ephs won handily in their Jan. 26 meeting with the seventh-seeded Bantams, but the teams met in Chandler Gymnasium today with heightened stakes.
Forward James Heskett '19 led all scorers with 25 points, shooting seven of 11 from the field and nine of 11 from the free throw line. Guard Bobby Casey '19 added 18 points on four 3-pointers. For the Bantams, guard Eric Gendron scored 24, 15 of which came in the second half.
Neither team built a lead of more than six until midway through the second half, when Williams began to pull away. With 13:18 remaining in the second half and the game tied at 48, Heskett's and-one layup ignited a 12-4 run that gave the Ephs an eight-point lead. Gendron, however, provided 13 points for the Bantams in the last eight minutes, pulling the visitors back within striking distance.
A 3-pointer from co-captain Cole Teal '18 extended the lead to 68-60 with 3:29 to go, but Trinity scored six unanswered points to pull within two at 1:48. Co-captain Chris Galvin '18 made a crucial driving layup to make it 72-68 with 22 seconds left, forcing Trinity to play with urgency.
Gendron, however, continued to fight back. With seven seconds left, he made an improbable one-handed 3-pointer to put the Bantams within one at 72-71.
Trinity then fouled Heskett, who made the first of two foul shots to bring the score to 73-71. Bantam sophomore Christian Porydzy missed a long 3-point attempt, and Teal was fouled after securing the rebound with just 0.3 on the clock. After rebounding a missed free throw, Trinity junior Jeremy Arthur launched a full-court desperation heave that fell short, giving the Ephs a slim 73-71 victory.
"This win was a bit emotional because everybody's playing their heart out," Teal said. "This is such a fun time of the year. It's 'win or go home.'"
"Our seniors made big plays down the stretch," head coach Kevin App added. "Cole had some great plays when we needed them, and Chris Galvin finished it off with that layup. We made just one more play than the other team."
In the first half, Gendron scored his team's first seven points. He gave the visitors an early 5-0 lead with a jump shot and an and-one layup in transition. Williams bounced back with fluid ball movement and a strong inside presence. Down 14-13 with 12:28 left in the half, the Ephs went on a 9-2 run. A Casey 3 gave Williams a 22-16 edge at 9:54.
Late in the first half, Arthur caught fire from beyond the arc, helping Trinity briefly regain the lead at 6:16. The Ephs began to inch ahead once more before Bantam sophomore Joseph Bell beat the halftime buzzer with a step-back 3, bringing the score to 39-38 Williams at the break.
"We thought we had a couple of mental lapses in the first half where we gave guys like Arthur the shots that they're comfortable shooting," App said. "We talked about scouting reports, and I thought the guys tightened up in the second half."
A Matt Karpowicz '20 dunk extended the lead to six early in the second half, but Porydzy made back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 44.
The Ephs managed to build their second-half lead through unselfish passing and stellar defense in the paint. Karpowicz, who finished with four blocks, and Michael Kempton '19 helped hold the Bantams to just 40 percent shooting in the second half.
"Mike Kempton does a lot to help us win that doesn't show up in the box score," App said. "He brings the defense and the rebounding."
In addition, Karpowicz and Kempton used their size to create shot opportunities from the post. The finished with the two highest assist totals in the game; Karpowicz assisted on four baskets, and Kempton assisted on three, including Teal's late 3 that extended the lead to eight.
"I've never seen Mike Kempton more hyped up than he was after that play," Teal said.
"Mike and Karp [Karpowicz] are two of the best big man passers I've ever been around, and that's been a huge part of our success," Casey said.
In his last three games, Casey has made 14 of his 25 (56 percent) 3-point attempts. His 82 made triples on the year lead the NESCAC.
"Our offense is based off movement and extra passes," Casey said. "I've just been finding myself in the right spots. My teammates are doing a great job of setting me up with the shots that I practice every day."
Overall, Williams shot 26 of 54 (48.1 percent) from the field and seven of 16 (43.8 percent) from 3, and Trinity shot 29 of 66 (43.9 percent) and eight of 19 from deep. The Bantams had a 37-32 advantage in rebounds.
Trinity scored 11 second-chance points, while Williams had only three. Bantam first-year Donald Jorden recorded a game-high 10 rebounds, two of which came on the offensive end.
Williams will face No. 15 Hamilton next Saturday in the NESCAC semifinals. All four of the higher seeds won their first-round matchups. The Continentals, seeded fourth, knocked off the fifth-seeded Tufts Jumbos 91-82. Top-seeded Amherst, which narrowly defeated eight-seeded Bowdoin 71-70, will host the semifinal and final rounds. Game times are yet to be released.