The Williams College Men’s Basketball team survived one of their biggest scares of the season. After defeating Endicott College 103-41 last February 23, Williams lost to NESCAC rival Hamilton College 104-93 in their season finale putting their tournament bid in jeopardy. However, Sunday night the NCAA announced that the Ephs will face Trinity at home Thursday night in the first round of the Division III tournament.
Before Saturday’s game, Williams was ranked second in New England and was poised to take a second seed in the regional playoffs of the NCAA Division III tournament. The loss moved Williams back to the number four seed in the East regional and pitted them against Trinity. Trinity pulled off a major victory over Williams this season, 73-68, ending the Eph’s 50 game home winning streak. Tri-captain Grant Farmer ‘98 put the upcoming game in perspective by succinctly stating, “redemption, that’s it.”
Endicott, three years into having a men’s basketball program, came to Williamstown facing three seniors in their last regular season home game and a Williams team ranked fifth in the nation. Simply put, the game wasn’t pretty. First the lead was 11-0, then 26-4, then 41-15 en route to an extremely comfortable 49-17 half-time lead.
The Ephs were able to hold the Endicott to only 22% shooting from the field for the half on 7 of 31 shots. Williams, on the other hand, had 12 of its 14 active players score points in the first half, and shot an amazing 60% from the field.
The second half displayed more of the same domination. Williams went on a 32-6 run and didn’t relent for a single play. Endicott didn’t hit a field goal for the first twelve and a half minutes of the second half, and when they finally did, the score was already 88-26.
The only suspense left in this nail-biter was whether or not Williams was going to break the century mark. The question was answered when Brendan Nelson ‘00 hit one of two free throws with about a minute left. Endicott’s Eric Simonelli was the game’s top scorer, with 18 points, while Williams was led by Mike Holland ‘99, who was a perfect six of six from the field and scored 13 points in just 13 minutes of action.
Entering into Saturday’s game, the Ephs understood that their participation in the NCAA tournament was secure, while Hamilton’s future rested on a needed victory. When all was said and done, the Hamilton Continentals emerged victorious, despite 36 points for Mike Nogelo ‘98. Williams ended its regular season with a 21-3 mark. “I thought they played really well. They shot the ball well, out rebounded us, they did everything,” remarked Nogelo.
Williams was down by six at the half, 47-41, and they were unable to close the gap at any point in the second half. Hamilton played their hearts out, and shot over 58% from the field in the second half. Three Continental players scored more than twenty points, as Jon Schmeigel had 27, Kevin Thorpe had 26, and Michael Shantz netted 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Brendan McGuire ‘98 made a strong statement for Williams, backing up Nogelo with 18 points, 10 boards, and six assists in the game. Although the loss hurt Williams in the tournament seedings, the players seem more determined than ever to make it back to the Final Four.
“We’re coming together,” Jim Frew ‘99 said. “We’re a veteran team, we’ve have players who have been there before. Our team ties [and] our chemistry are too strong to be broken by the loss [to Hamilton] or the low seeding. I really believe we’ll rise to the challenge after all, we’re Williams athletes.”