MIAMI, FLA. – In their second and final game of the HoopMIA D3 Shootout, the Williams Ephs (10-0) won their second one-point game of the season, defeating the Ursinus Grizzly Bears (5-5) in a 68-67 match that was every bit as thrilling as the score suggested.
The Ephs led for the entire fourth quarter, but the Grizzly Bears had taken a 6-0 run to cut the Williams lead to two with under a minute to play. With the shot clock running below five, guard Emily Chang '20 drove to the basket, laid the ball off the backboard, and watched as her shot bounced off the rim twice before going in. Chang's clutch bucket gave Williams a two-possession, 67-63 lead with 0:18 to go. Ursinus' Maya Kornfeld quickly responded with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one and give the Grizzly Bears a shot. The clock read 0:14.
Williams took advantage of Ursinus' three fouls to give and ran four more seconds off the clock, after which forward Maddy Mandyck '22 made one of two free throws to put the Ephs ahead by two at 68-66. The Ephs' inbounding skills were especially put to the test, as they had to run four consecutive inbound plays without turning the ball over. They succeeded.
"They're a really aggressive team, so to be able to inbound the ball four times in a row is really key," remarked Eph head coach Pat Manning.
The Ephs made a potentially costly mistake by fouling Kornfeld with 1.6 seconds to go, but after making the first, Kornfeld missed her second free throw, which took two bounces off the rim before falling out. Kornfeld's miss kept the game at 68-67, Williams, and the Ephs ran out the clock from there to preserve their dramatic victory.
Whereas Kornfeld's bouncing ball did not ultimately go in, Chang's did – and that's what made the difference in a tight game in which every point mattered. The Ephs led by as many as fifteen, however, and allowed Ursinus to claw back into the game.
"I'm really happy with our composure, especially in crunch time," said Manning following the dramatic win. But despite Williams' clutch play in the final seconds, Manning still thought there was plenty of room for improvement. "Our defense hit a lull in the third quarter, and I'll give Ursinus a lot of credit, because they never let up."
Ursinus started off strong with a 14-5 run to open the game, facing Williams with their largest deficit of the season. But the Ephs clawed back, ripping off an 11-2 run and tying the game on a layup by forward Morgan Dauk '21. Dauk's make was the last score of the first quarter, which ended in a 16-16 tie.
The teams went back and forth to start the second. But with Ursinus holding a narrow, 25-23 lead, Williams went on a 10-0 run. On the run, guard Mikaela Topper '21 gave the Ephs their first lead of the game on a breakaway layup, and Mandyck finished it with two baskets on back-to-back possessions. The Grizzly Bears clawed back with four unanswered points at the half, and it could have been more had a potential buzzer-beating layup not been a split second too late.
Though the Ephs were outrebounded 20-14 in the first half, they only turned the ball over 4 times, compared to the Grizzly Bears' 12. Williams once again showed their depth, scoring 8 first-half bench points compared to 0 for Ursinus.
In the second half, the Ephs immediately began to pull away, only for the Grizzly Bears to get right back in the game. Emily Chang and Mikaela Topper hit back-to-back threes on the first two Williams possessions of the half. After a jump shot by Ursinus' Kornfeld, the Ephs responded with jumpers by Topper, Chang, and Brule to extend the run to 12-2. The Ephs led by as many as fifteen in the third, but Ursinus ended the quarter on a 9-2 run to cut the Williams lead to 53-46.
Neither team recorded a field goal until almost three minutes into the fourth, but Ursinus started the scoring with a lefty layup by Aliyah Stephens. The Grizzly Bears scored the first five points of the quarter to pull within two, but Chang emphatically broke the Ephs' scoring drought with a three-pointer to give Williams a five-point cushion with 5:34 to go. Mikaela Topper hit what seemed like a game-clinching three to put Williams ahead by 8 with just over two minutes to play, but Ursinus started a furious rally that put the game in doubt until the final seconds.
The Ephs, who have showed plenty of resilience this season, delivered once again to advance to 10-0 for the first time since 2013-14, when they started the year with 12 straight wins.
Chang led the Ephs with 17 points. Topper added 14 points to go with six assists, and guard Maggie Meehan '21 scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. IN her second start of the season, Mandyck enjoyed another good game, tallying nine points and seven more boards in addition to the clutch free throw.
For the Grizzly Bears, both Stephens and Lydia Konstanzer eclipsed the 20-point mark, scoring 23 and 20, respectively. Konstanzer also tallied eight rebounds, falling just two boards short of a double-double. Stephens made 10 of her 12 free throws – eight more makes than any other player on either team.
Williams used an impressive shot selection, as 60 of their 68 points came either from behind the arc or in the paint. Though Ursinus (50.0%) shot more efficiently overall than Williams (40.9%), the Ephs made eight three-pointers, as opposed to just three for the Grizzly Bears. While Ursinus outrebounded Williams 36-31, the Ephs earned a 10-7 edge on offensive boards.
Manning believes that today's game will prepare the Ephs well for the NESCAC portion of their schedule in January. "[Ursinus] made us work for everything, which is great preparation for conference play. That's how all the NESCAC teams play. We're going to have to bring it for all 40 minutes."
The Ephs play eight games against NESCAC opponents in January, including two against Amherst. But first, on Saturday, January 4 at 2:00PM, they play their first game of 2020 on the road against Skidmore.