WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – In a dominating performance from start to finish, the 19th ranked Williams Ephs (22-6) defeated the Gwynedd Mercy Griffins (20-9) by a final score of 90-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. With the win, Williams advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in the last ten years.
"Gwynedd Mercy is a tremendous team that plays really, really hard," said Williams Head Coach Kevin App. "That's what got them here. We knew we had to match them in intensity and energy. I thought our defensive commitment in the first half really set the stage, and the confidence we built from the second half yesterday carried over to today."
Williams used its decisive height advantage to stifle Gwynedd Mercy's offense in the first several minutes. On the offensive end, senior Kyle Scadlock scored five quick points inside to help the Ephs build an early 7-0 lead. After a turnover by the Griffins, senior James Heskett drilled a three from the left corner to put the Ephs up 10-0 and force a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Gwynned Mercy ramped up their aggressive defense and went on a much-needed 5-0 run. But apart from that short stretch of momentum, the Ephs had total control throughout the half. In one notable sequence, Scadlock and Heskett threw down two-handed jams on consecutive fast breaks. Shortly after, senior Bobby Casey, Heskett, and junior Mickey Babek hit three straight three pointers to give the Ephs a 25-7 lead with 8:20 remaining in the half. The Griffins would not reach double figures until Jaylen Henry hit a jumper from the short corner with 5:39 left.
With the Ephs leading by 23 at 32-9, momentum swung back in favor of Gwynedd Mercy, who scored six straight points. Rich Dunham capped off the run with a two-handed dunk at the 4:26 mark. Stubbornly refusing to let the Griffins claw their way back into the game, Williams responded with three straight layups by Matt Karpowicz, Casey, and Scadlock to push the margin back over twenty. Heskett hit another three with under a minute left, his fourth of the half, to give Williams a 44-19 lead at the break.
The Ephs shot a scorching hot 16 of 25 (64 percent) from the floor, including 6 of 11 (54.5%) from downtown. Gwynedd Mercy, on the other hand, shot only 9 of 35 (25.7%) from the field and just 1 of 11 from three.
"We have played a lot of teams like them this year like Tufts, Moravian, and Manhattanville," said Coach App. "If you let them drive and kick and play down hill, they are really good shooters. We wanted to force them to be more of a passing team on the perimeter."
Heskett led Williams with 18 points. Scadlock added 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Dunham contributed 7 points to lead the Griffins.
Desperately needing something to change, Gwynedd Mercy came out in the second half in a fiery full-court press. Though they forced three Eph turnovers in the opening four minutes, the press also allowed Williams to find several open looks on the other end, including a dunk by Karpowicz and a corner three by junior Henry Feinberg.
"They changed up the defensive looks a lot," said Coach App. "Every time they made a change, it took a possession or two for our guys to figure it out."
The Griffins, however, kept battling and attacking rim with reckless abandon. A difficult layup by Courtney Cubbage narrowed the Eph lead to 56-37 with 14:11 to play. In the next couple minutes, Williams continued to struggle breaking down the press, turning the ball over several times. But Gwynedd Mercy failed to capitalize.
With the score 61-41 and just 10 minutes left, the Ephs fired off a quick 8-0 run to balloon their lead to 28. The run included backbreaking consecutive threes from Casey and Heskett. Casey continued his hot shooting with a pull-up three that put Williams up 76-44 with 6:30 left. With the lead now over the 30, the game's outcome was all but sealed.
"It was a really fun game and great to see the six seniors carry us to the end," said Coach App. "It was great to have all the seniors out on the floor towards the end. It's one of those nice moments that we'll all remember."
Heskett led all scorers with 30. Casey added an impressive 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. As a team, the Ephs shot an unbelievable 31 of 49 (63.3%) from the floor, not to mention 12 of 23 (52.2%) from long range.
Cubbage led Gwynedd Mercy with 18 points and 5 boards. Dunham added 13 for the Griffins.
Williams advances to next weekend's Sweet Sixteen where they will play the winner of tonight's second round game between Whitman (27-1) and Pomona-Pitzer (26-2).