Men’s basketball continues five-game winning streak

James Heskett ’19 scored a game high of 31 points in the Ephs’ triumph against the Polar Bears. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Last week, men’s basketball (18-4, 6-2 in the NESCAC) defeated Bowdoin 72-55, Colby 77-49 and SUNY Oneonta 75-56, extending its winning streak to five games.

Saturday’s contest against Bowdoin was Senior Day, marking the last home game of the regular season for the men. The Ephs’ honored captains Adam Kroot ’18, Chris Galvin ’18, Cole Teal ’18 and Mike Greenman ’18.

Head coach Kevin App discussed the contributions of the senior class. “This class is a fun one for me,” he said. “They were the first guys I met when they were 17 and 18 years old, and I think I’ve grown as a coach and they have grown as young men over the four years… They are a great group that’s fun to be around every day and make this program what it is.”

The Ephs were fired up and got several early stops on the defensive end to keep the Polar Bears off the board in the first three and a half minutes. They soon led 14-2.

Bowdoin began to cut into the lead, but James Heskett ’19 was quick to answer with a 3-pointer. Soon after, however, the Polar Bears began to shoot the ball from deep and closed the gap to 20-19. The Ephs called a timeout with 6:41 left in the half.

The teams traded baskets toward the end of the half. Notably, Matthew Karpowicz ’20 notched a 3-point play, a layup and a post. The Polar Bears were able to score a couple of buckets before the break, but the Ephs led 33-28 at halftime.

Coming out of the half, the Ephs made a couple of defensive stops and timely shots, including a circus layup by Bobby Casey ’19, to extend their lead to 47-36. The Polar Bears resorted to a full-court press, but the Ephs continued to put up point after point. Even a late offensive spurt by Bowdoin was not enough as the men cruised to a 72-55 victory.

After the game, App lauded the performances of the seniors on the squad. “I was super proud of the seniors,” he said. “Kroot…[played] a great game and hit a big shot. Galvin and Teal also had great games. It’s awesome, and hopefully we can keep it going and these guys can make some great memories.”

The Ephs finished shooting 47.9 percent (23 of 48) from the field, and Heskett led the Ephs in scoring with 31 points.

On Friday, Williams faced Colby. From the opening tip, both teams played with intense defensive effort. The Ephs did not give the Mules any open looks and were able to hold the opposition to a mere two points after five minutes of play.

Karpowicz came out of a timeout and put the Ephs up 11-2 with a layup and then a block on the other end. The physical play by both teams led to the Mules finding themselves in foul trouble. Casey capitalized with a 3-pointer and a mid-range bucket en route to a 38-23 Eph advantage at the break.

In the second half, the Mules used a full-court press to force a couple of turnovers. Even so, the long-distance marksmanship of Marcos Soto ’19 and Casey brought the Ephs to a 59-33 lead.

App gave credit to the defensive schemes of the Mules. “They do a good job of mixing up their defenses to throw you off your rhythm,” App said. “They sped us up in the first half and then got us a little stagnant by throwing some zones and presses at us. It took our guys a little bit longer than I always like, but I think they did a good job of just getting back to playing basketball.”

No matter what defense Colby played, Williams always had an answer. Karpowicz highlighted the scoring run with a put-back and a layup through contact. The Ephs held onto their lead for a 77-49 win. Casey led the team with 22 points, and Michael Kempton ’19 snagged a team-high seven rebounds.

App praised the consistency that the team showed on Friday. “This is three straight games where we have come out and played really hard, especially on the defensive end,” App said. “When we do that, I think we are a really good basketball team. Colby is one of the better offensive teams we’ve played all year, and I thought our intensity and effort took them out of the stuff they have been able to do against other teams.”

On their Jan. 30 road showdown against SUNY Oneonta, the men jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, courtesy of great defensive effort, including a steal by Henry Feinberg ’20.

The Red Dragons were able to battle back and bring the Ephs’ lead down to four with five minutes left in the half, but the Ephs turned up the defensive pressure and stopped the Red Dragons’ run. The Ephs earned themselves a 38-26 lead going into the half, with Casey scoring 14 points.

Oneonta chipped into the lead after the break, cutting the score to 48-42 with 12 minutes left in the game. Feinberg stopped the run by knocking down a 3-pointer and drawing a foul, converting a four-point play. The men’s sharpshooting and solid free throw shooting down the stretch kept the Red Dragons at bay, and the Ephs won 75-56.

App shared his thoughts on the team’s performance during the final stretch of the season. “No matter what point in the season we are, we always want to find something to improve on, and the guys are doing that,” App said. “We are seeing guys step up into bigger roles. Tonight Kroot came in and gave us tremendous minutes on the defensive end, and Feinberg made some big plays to quarrel their run. That’s kind of what you want to see, different guys stepping up to give us that depth and versatility that we will need down the stretch.”

The men travel to play archrival Amherst on Friday at 7 p.m.