Men’s hoops edges Colby, falls to Bowdoin

Men’s basketball (15-7, 5-2 in the NESCAC) saw Senior Day come to a disappointing conclusion as Bowdoin netted four points in the game’s final minute to seal a 76-71 upset. Saturday’s loss followed a 72-67 comeback victory over visiting Colby the night before.

Trouble from the line ultimately undid the Ephs in their last home game of the regular season. With under a minute to play, Williams missed two free throws that would have put the men on top. The Ephs shot an uninspired 57 percent (12-for-21) from the charity stripe, while the Polar Bears sank 87.5 percent (14-for-16) of their free throws, including the game’s decisive final four points.

“We just didn’t have the toughness on the defensive end or on the glass to deserve to win,” co-captain Kevin Snyder ’09 said. “You have to give credit to Bowdoin for hitting tough shots and executing on offense; we just never found an offensive flow and never put together a string of good defensive possessions.”

In a contest that was neck-and-neck for the full 40 minutes, Blake Schultz ’10 proved to be the Ephs’ most valuable asset. The junior caught fire in the second half, scoring 20 of his 24 total points after the break. Shooting 8-for-18 from the floor, Schultz also set the tone defensively with nine rebounds and three steals.

With his performance on the glass, Schultz stepped into the shoes left by the injury of center Joe Geoghegan ’10. Even having missed the last two games, the 6’8” center is third on the team in scoring and second in rebounds. “Joe’s absence is tough, because he is simply a great player, as well as being our rock in the middle,” Snyder said. “It hurts when you lose any starter to injury, but when it’s a double-double guy who is also the anchor for your team both offensively and defensively, you feel it that much more.”

“At the same time, we believe that if anyone goes down with an injury, we are deep enough to still be a very competitive and successful team,” Snyder added. “I’m very proud of Joe in that he has been incredibly positive in dealing with his injuries, and he has never let it affect his attitude.”

Snyder, the only player on either team to go the full 40 minutes, was also a key contributor. He finished with 13 points and a team-high four assists.

The win improves Bowdoin’s conference record to 3-4, while Williams’ loss drops the men to third in the NESCAC behind Middlebury (7-0) and Amherst (6-1).

On Friday night, Williams came out on the other end of a comparably back-and-forth game. And similarly, Schultz delivered a clutch performance, netting 15 points and bringing down a team-high nine rebounds. Harlan Dodson ’11 and Snyder scored 17 and 15 points, respectively, in the win.

After the first half, however, Williams’ hopes for victory were somewhat bleak. Shooting just 7-for-21 from the floor, the men trailed the Mules 27-23, whose equally lackluster shooting at least kept things close.
The Ephs came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, however, hitting 65 percent (13-for-20) of their field goals in the last 20 minutes, including an astounding 10-for-14 behind the three-point arc. Dodson himself went three-for-five from downtown in the second, picking up 15 points in the period, while Schultz collected 10 points after the break.

“Harlan came out on fire in the second half and provided a much needed spark offensively,” said co-captain Michael Kearney ’09. “Colby did a great job early taking away Kevin and Blake, so we needed someone to step up, and Harlan did.”

Tough defense also spurred the Ephs’ second-half efforts. “In the second half, our defensive intensity picked up,” Kearney added. “We got some much-needed stops early that allowed us to take the lead, and played an important role in solidifying the victory down the stretch.”

But even with the Ephs’ solid defense and big second-half performances the Mules remained in contention, threatening until the final buzzer. Down the stretch Colby’s Gil Haylon drilled a three-pointer to cut Williams’ lead to 68-67. But Dodson responded by drawing a foul and sinking his two free throws, giving Colby just one more chance. With just under 10 seconds remaining, Colby took an open three but missed. Kearney came down with the rebound to dash the Mule’s hope for a comeback.

On Jan. 31, Williams fell 67-62 to Middlebury, ranked 16th in the nation. The Panthers handed the men their first conference loss of the season and snapped a four-game Williams winning streak, while extending their own winning streak to 14 games. They built an early 9-2 lead and never surrendered the advantage en route to a school record for most consecutive wins.

The men will head to Amherst (18-4, 6-1) this Friday for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. In a non-conference game against their rivals earlier this winter, the Ephs fell 65-60. The game will help decide which team receives two seed in the NESCAC tournament.

Regarding the team’s approach to the upcoming game, Kearney said, “Colby was able to stay in the game because they killed us on the boards. Looking ahead to Amherst, who also out rebounded us last time we played by a significant margin, we will need to stress boxing out and going after long rebounds. If we do that, we will be in good shape.”