Men’s basketball edges Amherst 74-70

Playing to a capacity crowd in Chandler Gymnasium, men’s basketball (23-1, 9-0 in the NESCAC) defeated rival Amherst on Saturday after dousing Trinity on Friday. The Ephs’ win over the Jeffs put the men atop the NESCAC after a season of perfect conference play.

The men’s near-perfect season was the result of a true team effort helmed by tri-captains Harlan Dodson ’11 and Troy Whittington ’11, who competed in their final regular season game on Saturday. Prior to the game against Amherst, both players were recognized for their efforts and contributions to the team and the College.

“I think both Troy and Harlan have contributed greatly to our basketball program and to our institution as a whole … I think they’ve earned the respect of their peers not just as athletes but as students,” Head Coach Mike Maker said.

Surrounded by the boisterous cheers of the Williams student and alumni sections, the men quickly gained control of the Amherst game as tri-captain James Wang ’12 scored the first four baskets of the game. Maintaining their edge, the Ephs commanded an 11-4 advantage when the Jeffs called their first team timeout. Responding with a fury, Amherst managed to steal the lead before Wang came back with multiple three-pointers, tying the game with 5:52 left in the first half. The Ephs and Jeffs traded the lead for the remainder of the half until baskets by Wang and Nate Robertson ’13 secured the lead for the Ephs. Robertson stole the ball from the Jeffs just before the end of the half to put the Ephs up by eight as they headed to the locker rooms.

“We knew we had to rebound the ball very well in order to win. They have a lot of size and they’re pretty athletic. Last game, their starting center Peter Kaasila had seven offensive rebounds and a total of 18 points, and that really killed us because those extra possessions made us play defense longer,” Wang said.

The second half opened with a surge from Amherst, as the Jeffs cut the lead and knotted the game at 46-46. Not to be outdone, the Ephs took the lead again on the strength of two consecutive three-pointers from rookie Taylor Epley ’14. The Jeffs were never far behind, however, and they quickly tied the game again with 12 minutes remaining. As the two teams battled for the lead, Whittington pumped energy into the sell-out crowd with two dunks that grabbed the lead for the men. With Williams carrying only a precarious one-point advantage, James Klemm ’13 made the final basket of the game, sinking a three-point shot to put the Ephs up by four. Wang sealed the Ephs’ victory when he nabbed a defensive rebound off the Jeffs with 12 seconds on the clock. The junior’s strong game helped boost the men to victory as they triumphed 74-70 over Amherst.

Wang led the team in scoring, tallying an incredible 33 points, followed by Whittington with 14. The men managed 44.4 percent field goal shooting, while the defense held Amherst to 40.3 percent field goal shooting. Although Amherst out-rebounded Williams 46-35, Williams held the advantage in three-point shooting at 63.6 percent and free throw shooting with 39.3 percent.

The men claimed another victory on Friday, dropping Trinity 86-60. Despite the Bantams’ early lead, the Ephs managed to pick up points through three-pointers from Klemm, Dodson and Wang. The men scored four three-pointers in a row to come back and then extend their lead to double digits. The two teams traded three-pointers until the Ephs managed to gain momentum toward the end of the first half, hitting the locker rooms with a halftime edge of 44-30. In the second half, Trinity was no match for the men, who ignited after Epley sunk back-to-back three-pointers. The Ephs maintained the lead to close the game with a commanding 86-60 tally.

Wang led the men with 20 points in the game and Whittington followed with 17, while Klemm and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14 contributed 10 points each to the win. The Ephs benefitted from a substantial shooting advantage, sinking 56.9 percent from the field while the Bantams stumbled to 42.5 percent shooting.

Williams will face Bowdoin in Chandler Gym on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the NESCAC Quarterfinals to start the postseason.