WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – In an exciting back-and-forth NESCAC Quarterfinal matchup, the fourth-seeded Williams Ephs (20-5) prevailed over the fifth-seeded Trinity Bantams (17-8) by a final score of 88-77. The Ephs advance to play Amherst in the Semifinals next weekend, which will be played at Hamilton College.
"Trinity is a really well coached, great program that has made us a lot better over the past few years," said Williams Head Coach Kevin App. "Every game against them has been just like this. We knew what to expect and that it wasn't going to be easy. We knew we would have to buckle down defensively and fight for our opportunities on the offensive end."
Coming off a rare three game losing streak, including two losses at home last weekend, the Ephs looked to get off to a fast start. Determined to attack the basket in the early going, they earned trips to the free throw line on their first two possessions, but could only convert one of four attempts. The Bantams then reeled off an 8-0 run over the next minute. Despite their recent struggles, Williams displayed composure and fought their way back.
Though the Ephs would regain the lead at 15-14 with 13:37 remaining, it became increasingly clear that it would be a tight, physical, and defensive-minded game. Both teams traded the lead for the ensuing eight minutes with neither squad creating any considerable separation. The main entertainment of the half was the exciting battle down low between Eph junior center Matt Karpowicz and Trinity bigs Donald Jorden and Jadakis Brooks. Karpowicz showed off some stellar post moves, helping the Ephs build a six-point halftime lead at 40-34.
Karpowicz contributed 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the Ephs at the break. As has been the case all season, the Ephs struggled at the free throw line, shooting 7-15 (46.6%) in the first frame. Trinity, on the other hand, made all six of their attempts from the charity stripe. On top of the discrepancy in free throw success, Trinity collected ten more boards than Williams to help keep their deficit in single digits.
Not satisfied with just a six-point advantage, Williams erupted for a 7-0 run to open the second half. Two Henry Feinberg layups sandwiched around a James Heskett three-point play put the Ephs up 13 with under 17 minutes to play. But right when it looked like the higher seeded Ephs might pull away, Trinity countered with an 11-4 run to make it a two-possession game.
After Trinity cut their deficit to two, Heskett drilled a three with 11:25 remaining from the left side to put Williams up 57-52. Williams, however, could not sustain any momentum. Bantam sophomore Francis Uzorh nailed a three a couple minutes later to tie the game at 59. On the following possession, Trinity guard Joseph Bell hit a deep three before the shot clock expired to give the Bantams their first lead since the first half. The shot forced Coach App to call timeout with 8:40 left in the game.
Williams would tie the game at 62 before Karpowicz was fouled with the Ephs in the bonus. Consistent with their first half free throw struggles, Karpowicz missed the front end. The game remained a one-possession affair for the next couple minutes as more fans piled into Chandler Gymnasium.
With the score 66-64 Trinity coming out of a timeout, the next sequence was perhaps the most exciting of the game. Williams senior Kyle Scadlock collected an offensive rebound and converted on a three-point play to give the lead back to the Ephs with under five minutes remaining. But as they did all game, Trinity responded with Bell converting a three-point play of his own. In the spirit of back-and-forth, Karpowicz joined the party with an and-one on the very next possession. But he missed the free throw and the game stayed tied at 69-69 with 4:26 left.
After Bobby Casey made one of two free throws, Eph senior Michael Kempton drew a charge on the other end to elicit an explosion from the hometown crowd. Casey connected on a difficult layup out of a timeout to put Williams up by three. A few plays later, Karpowicz skillfully fed Heskett on a backdoor cut for an and-one to give Williams a 77-71 lead with 1:41 remaining.
Without much margin for error, Trinity's Christian Porydzy hit a clutch three to pull the Bantams back within three. Out of a timeout, Williams went with the familiar option of having Casey drive to the basket. His layup attempt missed but Scadlock grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 43.6 seconds left. With the Ephs in the double bonus, Scadlock hit both free throws. A defensive stop on the next play all but sealed the game, and put an end to the Ephs' losing streak.
"I believe this is the longest losing streak these guys have gone through. And to do it at the end of the regular season is tough," said Coach App. "But it was also a great time to wipe the slate clean. I am really proud of our seniors for their leadership and poise. Then to come from down three with five minutes left and rally the troops was just really impressive."
Scadlock led the Ephs with 20 points on perfect 5-5 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds. Karpowicz added 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Casey also contributed 19 points.
Bell led the Bantams with 17 points while Jorden added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"In the playoffs, it's easy to start worrying about seeds and what happened in the regular season game," said Coach App. "But at this point, it really doesn't mean anything. You go out there, you let it rip, and see what happens against some great teams."
Williams will play Amherst at Hamilton next weekend in their third consecutive NESCAC Semifinals appearance. Trinity likely saw their season come to a close.