Men’s hoops concludes tourney run with 82-79 defeat in Elite Eight

Men’s basketball (26-5, 9-1 in the NESCAC) capped a strong season with an appearance in the Div. III NCAA tournament quarterfinal in Salem, Va. Up against No. 1 St. Thomas on March 22, the men put up a strong fight but ultimately succumbed 82-79 and were subsequently eliminated from the tournament. Prior to making the trek to Salem, the men handily dispatched Virginia Wesleyan 84-75 on March 16 in their final home game of the season.

In the men’s showdown with St. Thomas, Williams jumped out to an early first-half lead. The men led throughout the half, building a 12-point lead of 42-30 with three to play in the half. Co-captain James Klemm ’13 lit up the scoreboard in the opening half, establishing the Ephs’ offense with 14 points and three long balls. The men put together a team effort on the defensive side of the ball, pounding the boards and holding St. Thomas to 44.1-percent shooting in the first half. By the time the buzzer sounded in the first, the Ephs held a 47-39 advantage.

The Tommies took charge in the second, however, snaring a 50-49 lead just four minutes into the new half. The men regained the lead with Klemm providing even more offense in the second, but St. Thomas hung with them, carrying an 82-74 lead into the final minute of play. Co-captain Nate Robertson ’13 refused to go quietly, getting the men two points with 41 seconds on the clock. Taylor Epley ’14 then hit a clutch three with 30 seconds left to narrow St. Thomas’s lead to 82-79. On St. Thomas’s final possession of the game, Klemm stole the ball, giving the men one last scoring opportunity. Klemm fired a three with five seconds left, but a Tommie blocked it, securing an 82-79 win for St. Thomas and eliminating Williams from the NCAA tournament.

Prior to the men’s Elite 8 game, Williams conquered Virginia Wesleyan 84-75. The Ephs established an early 11-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game, but the Marlins kept pace, eventually snaring a 23-21 advantage midway through the first. Epley and Klemm quieted them with some nice three-point shooting, but the Ephs held only a slim 40-39 lead at the break.

Play remained tight in the second half, but Epley stepped up for the men, scoring five straight points to establish a 77-72 lead with 2:26 to play. The Ephs pushed their lead to 80-74 via some solid free-throw shooting with under a minute to go, forcing the Marlins to foul. The men held steady at the line and walked away with an 84-75 victory.

“This group of guys, coaches and the students and community made this season unforgettable,” Robertson said. “To be able to go as far as we did into the tournament was a great experience and I’m glad we got that opportunity to continue to play together.”

The Ephs’ loss in the quarterfinal on March 22 ended their season. Williams will graduate fourseniors: Sean Hoffmann ’13, Parker McClelland ’13, Robertson and Klemm. This season was Head Coach Mike Maker’s fifth season at the helm, and he was a finalist for the Glenn Robinson National Coach of the Year Award in Div. III. He was also a finalist for the award in 2011.