Men’s hoops on a roll, in position for NCAA bid

The Williams College Men’s Basketball team has been on a roll, winning eight straight games. At 19-3 with one game left, Williams has positioned itself for a possible NCAA tournament invitation. In the latest NCAA Northeast poll, Williams was ranked third, behind NESCAC rival Connecticut College and Salem State.

Presently, the Ephs are tied with Conn College for first place in the conference (each suffering from just one league loss), but Conn holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Conn falters in its final two matches, Williams can capture the NESCAC champion mantle and the automatic tournament bid along with it.

The latest victims of the purple steamroller were Union, Tufts and Bates. The Union Dutchmen came rolling into Chandler on Tuesday evening. The game came down to the wire, with Williams barely holding on to a 64-61 victory. The first half found the Ephs dominating. Williams entered the locker at halftime with a 39-27 lead.

The Ephmen pushed their lead to 15 points with just 10 minutes to go in the game. Just when the game appeared to be on ice, the Dutchmen exploded for a 16-1 run in just four minutes, tying the score at 55-55. Williams struggled to find the basket in the second half while the Dutchmen found their magic touch. Coach Harry Sheehy called a timeout to rally his troops. Each team hit a pair of free throws to knot the score at 57 with two minutes left.

The Ephs had failed to hit a field goal in almost ten minutes before guard Andrew Conley ’01 hit a three-pointer from way downtown to give Williams the lead for good. The Dutchmen never threatened after Conley’s clutch shot, and Williams held on for a 64-61 victory. Williams shot a paltry 16.7 percent from the field in the second half. Though it was not pretty, Williams found a way to win, as it has all season long.

Eph forward Dan Dickens ’01, who was out of action for half the season, appeared to be fully recovered against Union. Dickens was the leading scorer with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Joe Weiss ’01 also finished with a double-double, scoring 12 and tallying 11 boards. Manny Benjamin ’01 finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Conley finished with ten. Union’s C.J. Rodgers led his team with a double-double – 16 points and 11 rebounds. Aaron Galletta scored 18 for the Dutchmen.

Williams’ tournament hopes got a big boost from its 74-58 victory over Tufts. The Jumbos were ranked fifth in the NCAA Northeast poll, sporting a 14-5 record. The tip was delayed for 30 minutes because the snowfall delayed the Jumbos arrival at Chandler. When the game finally started, both teams looked sluggish. Williams broke out of its shooting slump when Sean Keenan ’00 hit a trio of threes to put the Ephs up by 13 midway through the first half. Keenan’s 13-point first half performance led the way to the Ephs’ 34-21 halftime advantage.

Tufts threatened midway through the second half, coming as close as five, but strong Eph shooting (55 percent in the second half), led the way to victory.

In what was billed to be tough match became an Eph romp. The Jumbos never found the basket in the game, falling to Williams 74-58. For Williams, Weiss was the high scorer for Williams, ending the game with 23. Conley and Keenan each had 14, while Manny Benjamin added eight points and eight boards. Point guard Jim Sheehy ’00 dished out nine assists for the Ephmen. Fred Pedroletti paced the Jumbos with 12 points and eight rebounds, followed by Mike Andrews with 11.

On Saturday afternoon, Bates traveled to the Purple Valley to thwart the Eph’s tournament hopes. The Bobcats played more like kittens, falling to Williams 81-46. The Ephs took the lead early and never looked back.

Though shooting just 29 percent from the field, Williams led Bates 35-21 at the half. The Ephs had a 27-15 rebounding advantage over the Bobcats, accounting for numerous second chance scoring opportunities.

Williams ripped a 16-2 run in the early minutes of the second half to end all thoughts of a Bobcat comeback. The Ephs shot a strong 50 percent from the field in the final twenty minutes. Williams was especially strong on the boards, outrebounding Bates 56-29 on the day.

The triumvirate of Benjamin, Conley and Weiss led the Ephs in scoring. Weiss was the leading scorer with 18 points and seven rebounds. Benjamin was huge on the boards, grabbing 16 rebounds to go with 14 points. Conley finished the afternoon with 16 points.

Sheehy recorded six assists on the day. Billy Hart was the leading scorer for Bates, finishing with 14 points, including four three pointers. Ed Walker chipped in nine points, and Alex Wilson had eight.

The season finale will be at Chandler Gym tonight at 7:30 against Middlebury. It will be the final regular season home game for seniors Sean Keenan, Bebo Seward and Jim Sheehy. On the line will be a twenty win season and a possible NCAA tourney berth.