Men’s hoops opens with tourney win

The Williams men’s basketball season began in strong fashion this weekend with victories over Johnson State (VT) and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to capture the Berkshire Classic Championship.

On Friday night, Williams traveled down Route Two to MCLA for the Ephs’ season opener against Johnson State. In the first-round affair, the Ephs quickly jumped out in front of Johnson State, taking a 49-27 lead at the half. With their comfortable lead, the Ephs coasted to a 94-58 victory. Standing out in the game was forward Tim Folan ’03, who scored a team-high 22 points in his collegiate debut, 12 in the second half. Forward Joe Weiss ’01 contributed 17 points in the winning cause. With the easy victory, Williams advanced to the title game.

The final day of the tournament was played in Chandler Gym. In the championship contest, Williams took on cross-town rival MCLA. The Ephs jumped out quickly in the game. MCLA’s center, Murales Louis, got in foul trouble the first minute in the game and sat out for the rest of half. The loss of Louis was a big factor in the Eph’s scoring spree. Williams had a 12-point lead three minutes into the affair and never looked back. Williams had several runs in the game to take a 47-20 lead at the half. The stingy Eph defense shut down the fast-break Mohawk attack in the first half. MCLA shot 8 out of 29 from the field while the Ephs hit 44 percent of their shots, including eight from behind the arc. Williams dominated the tempo of the first 20 minutes of the game. Several Ephs had strong halves. Andrew Conley ’01 had a devastating shot in the first half, hitting four 3-pointers. Joe Weiss ’01 scored 12 in the period with five rebounds. A major force on the boards was Manny Benjamin ’01. He hauled in nine rebounds with his nine points. MCLA struggled to get back in the game. Bobby Fortes, the Mohawk point guard, scored eight in the half.

The second half started with MCLA charged up for a comeback run. Unfortunately for the Mohawks, the comeback never came. MCLA played full-court press at moments to gain momentum, but could not maintain full pressure for more than just a few minutes at a time. Williams kept its composure in the second half to maintain the lead.

The Eph lead never fell below 20 points in the final twenty minutes of play. MCLA played physically and paid for it as three Mohawks fouled out late in the game. But the final result of the match was never in doubt. Williams controlled the tempo from start to finish, easily defeating MCLA 95-64.

“Both Johnson State and MCLA were tough,” Folan said. “Both teams played extremely hard and with a lot of intensity. MCLA is a local rivalry which we really wanted to win. We came out pumped up and never looked back.”

Weiss was the high scorer for the Ephs with 18 points plus six rebounds. For his strong two-game performance, Weiss was named an all-tournament player. Folan followed up Friday night’s strong performance with another good outing-14 points, eight boards, five assists and five steals. Folan was recognized for his good play by being named the tournament MVP. Benjamin ended the day with 13 points and nine rebounds.

“Anytime you are recognized with an award like this it is a great honor, but the important thing is, as a team we set a goal for the weekend and we accomplished that goal,” Folan said. “We won the tournament.”

Tri-captain Jim Sheehy ’00 dished out five assists as well as running the Eph attack to its high offensive production on the day.

Sheehy said after the game, “It was nice to see Andrew Conley, Joe Weiss and Manny Benjamin, guys who have not played much their past two years, step up and produce.”

The Ephs were not at full strength in the tournament. Forward Sean Keenan ’00 started the basketball season late because of his football obligations. Major contributor Dan Dickens ’01 will be out until January with a severe ankle injury suffered over the summer. Since the team was missing two of its big contributors on top of departed starters Matt Hunt ’99, Jim Frew ’99 and Mike Holland ’99, it bodes well for the team that they played at such a high level.

Jim Sheehy commented, “The weekend was a big step forward for the team. We executed our game plans well on both nights and played extremely hard on both ends of the floor.”

The Ephs will now take a break after winning the Berkshire Classic. Williams will be back in action on November 30 at RPI.