Midd. trounces men’s basketball in NESCAC quarterfinals

Middlebury (19-6, 6-3 in the NESCAC) dashed Williams’ hopes for another conference title as the Panthers beat the Ephs 96-59 in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Saturday’s loss at Middlebury ended the season for the defending NESCAC champions, the sixth seed in the tournament, while Middlebury, the third seed, advanced to the semifinals for the first time ever. Middlebury will face Trinity, the second seed, in the semifinals at Amherst this weekend.

Williams (17-8, 4-5 in the NESCAC) finished the regular season with two home wins, but needed more than momentum to take on Middlebury. The Panthers edged the Ephs, 63-60, in the regular season match up at Williams three weeks ago. Then, on Saturday, Middlebury had home court advantage as well as the addition of senior star Andrew Harris, who sat out with an injury the last time the teams met.

Harris reminded the Ephs that he was ready to compete as he fired for three to open the game. He quickly hit another shot from behind the arc to bring the score to 6-2. Then the Panthers established an 11-4 lead within the first four minutes.

Middlebury held the lead throughout the game, though Williams came close to overtaking the team early on. The Ephs narrowed the gap to one point three times in the first half, but the Panthers battled back each time. The home team headed to the locker room leading 42-39. In the first half, the Panthers shot 55 percent from the floor while the Ephs shot 48 percent.

Middlebury extended its lead early in the second, but Williams was not far behind. Tri-captain Matt Weisbrot ’08 brought the Ephs within six, 58-52, with 12 minutes remaining. Although Troy Whittington ’11 added another bucket for the Ephs, the Panthers then surged ahead while Williams collapsed in the stretch.

Williams went scoreless, shooting 0-for-3 from the floor and losing possession five times in almost five minutes. Middlebury increased its lead to 70-54 with threes from Harris and Albert Handy. Tri-captain Chris Shalvoy ’08 made two free throws to stop the Middlebury run. Yet Williams struggled from the floor, managing just one more basket. With the 36-5 run, Middlebury finished the game, 96-59.

“In the second half we allowed them to dictate the pace of the game,” said tri-captain Chris Rose ’08. “They had us on our heels and as a result they shot the ball unbelievably well. We also had trouble scoring in the second half, which hurt our ability to stop their runs.”

The Ephs shot 22 percent in the second half for a game total of 36 percent. The Panthers, on the other hand, improved to 63 percent in the second for a game total of 58 percent. Five Panthers made it into double digits: Harris claimed 15 points and Handy scored 13. Blake Schultz ’09 led the scoring for both teams as he brought in 19 points for the Ephs. Shalvoy added 13 points and Rose contributed 10.

“I think we were all disappointed with how our season ended up,” Rose said. “With the talent and ability we had this year we should have been able to make a stronger push into the post season.”

Though the season concluded swiftly, the Ephs had time to earn several honors. Center Joe Geoghegan ’10 finished the season as the NESCAC leader in rebounding with 222 boards. He also placed 16th in the latest scoring rankings with 316 points. Shalvoy placed 15th in scoring with 317 points, second in three-pointers made with 61 and seventh in assists with 101. Rose took fifth in three-pointers made with 58 and 26th in points with 274 this season.