Men’s basketball bounces back from first loss to capture home tourney

In a week of highs and lows, the Ephs lost their first game of the season but rebounded to win their own tournament. On Wednesday evening, the Ephmen were stunned in North Adams, losing at the hands of MCLA, 80-76. Over the weekend, however, the team bounced back with two convincing victories over Southern Vermont, 87-61, and Nyack, 72-50, to win the Purple and Gold Classic.

In the first game succeeding Winter Break, Williams traveled to neighboring North Adams to take on Mass College (MCLA). Williams came out strong to open the game, shooting at a 59 percent clip from the field to take a 12-point lead into halftime. The second half was an entirely different story. The Ephs offense broke down, shooting only 31 percent in the final 20 minutes of play, and the Ephs lost the game 80-76 to the underdog Mohawks. Earlier in the season, Williams had easily handled Mass College, 95-64 – Wednesday’s win was MCLA’s first victory over the Ephs in recent memory.

For Williams, four players reached double figures in points on the night. Center Manny Benjamin ’01 led all scorers with 19 points and 8 boards. Point-guard Jim Sheehy ’00 and forward Joe Weiss ’01 both scored 14 in the affair. Tim Folan ’03 added 13 for the Ephs. For the surprising Mohawks, Bobby Fortes scored 19 points, while Brett Lamboley chipped in with 18 in the winning cause.

With the loss, Williams fell to 5-1 on the season. After the sour loss, the men’s basketball team went home to Chandler Gym to host the Purple and Gold Tournament on Friday and Saturday.

In one half of the bracket, Nyack College defeated St. Lawrence University, 90-78. The Purple Pride advanced to the championship game on the hot shooting from the field – 58 percent in the final twenty minutes of competition. Mamy Douno led the team with 22 and the strong play of Ricky Fletcher (14 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists) led the Pride to victory. Ryan Harpster scored 31 points for St. Lawrence.

The other half of the first round pitted Williams against Southern Vermont College. The Ephs jumped out quickly to a 10-point advantage in the first nine minutes of play. Williams upped that lead to 13 by halftime. Benjamin played a strong first half, with 11 points and nine rebounds. In the second half, the presence of the Eph big men was felt even more strongly. Williams control of the boards – translating into several second chance scoring opportunities – was the key to the Ephs 87-61 victory over the Mountaineers. An even more telling statistic was the 29-6 advantage on the offensive boards for the Ephs.

Benjamin scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Weiss had 15 points and eight rebounds on the night. Folan contributed 12 points to the Eph cause. Co-captain Jim Sheehy scored 10 points and dished out six assists on the night. Center Chris Farruggio led the Mountaineers with 20 points. All-tournament guard Charles Beekman scored 16 points and seven rebounds for the losing cause.

Williams may have played its most talented opponent in the young season on Saturday afternoon in NCAA Division II Nyack College. What was predicted to be a hard fought match ended up being a blowout. Williams easily handled Nyack in the Purple and Gold Classic championship game, 72-50.

The first half provided the hometown team with and tough competition. The lead changed hands nine times in the first 20 minutes of play. Williams took the lead at the 13-minute mark, 11-10. However, the Pride pulled together a 9-2 run to to up 25-24 with just four minutes left in the half. The Ephs regrouped and outscored Nyack 11-3 in the remainder of the half, as Joe Weiss scored nine out of the eleven points in the final run. Williams went into the locker room with a 35-28 lead. Weiss scored 17 in the half; Douno scored 13 for Nyack.

In the second half, Williams took control of the game. The Ephs never relinquished their lead the rest of the way. The Ephs took a quick 13-point lead, only to see it dwindle to six. With just ten minutes to go, Nyack trailed 49-43. When it looked Williams could fold for the second time in a week, the Ephs pulled together for the stretch run – outscoring the Saints 23-7 in the final 10 minutes of the game to take the tournament championship.

Williams continued its domination under the boards, out rebounding Nyack 50-34 (21-4 advantage on the offensive boards). The rebounding edge gave Williams numerous more second shot opportunities.

For the Ephs, Joe Weiss was named the tournament MVP. Weiss scored 21 points and had nine rebounds in the affair. Sheehy and Andrew Conley ’01 each chipped in 10 for the Eph cause. All-Tournament center Manny Benjamin scored eight and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Ephmen. On the Saint’s side of the court, All-Tournament guard Mamy Douno scored 15. Andre Johnson was also named to the all-tournament team, scoring 14 on the day.

After the loss to MCLA and victories over Southern Vermont and Nyack, Williams’ record stands at 7-1. Next Saturday, the Ephs renew their rivalry with the Defectors from Amherst. The game, to be played at Amherst, is scheduled to tip at 8:00 pm.

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