NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Williams 87, No. 7 Tufts 77 (OT)

NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Williams 87, No. 7 Tufts 77 (OT)

Courtesy of Williams Sports Information

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – The Williams College Ephs (22-3) defeated the Tufts University Jumbos (13-12) 87-77 in overtime, in an exciting NESCAC tournament quarterfinal match this afternoon at Chandler Gymnasium.

The teams were evenly matched from the tip-off, but a trey by Jumbo Kwame Firempong and a floater by Stephen Haladyna gave Tufts an early 11-6 lead six minutes into the half. Though Williams answered with a finish in the paint by Michael Mayer, the Jumbos would maintain this slim lead for the next several minutes.

Neither team was able to gain an advantage until the 6-minute mark, when the Jumbos extended their lead to seven off a pair of finishes by Hunter Sabety and a steal by Tarik Smith that resulted in two Ben Smith free throws. However, a three-pointer from the corner by Eph Mike Greenman stopped the Jumbo run in its tracks. A free throw and then a trey by Daniel Wohl tied the game up at 22 with 3:15 remaining. A layup by Mayer gave Williams the lead and forced a Tufts timeout.

Tufts recovered coming out of the timeout and kept the margin within three. An alley-oop to Sabety and a jumper by Haladyna gave the Jumbos a four-point lead with only 16 seconds left, but Eph Ryan Kilcullen nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to one going into the half, 32-31.

Both teams' big men led their teams in scoring, Sabety for the Jumbos with 12 and Mayer for the Ephs with nine.

The second half began with a flurry of offense. The Ephs struck first with a finish in the lane by Mayer on the first possession. The Jumbos answered with a jumper and then strong finish in the paint by Sabety to put Tufts up by three. A trey by Mayer tied it back up at 36 with 18:29 remaining in the game.

Neither team was able to get an edge on the other for much of the second half; for every bucket one team made, the other always had an answer.

With 3:17 to go, Haladyna nailed a three-pointer, and, after a missed shot by Eph Duncan Robinson, Sabety was fouled and hit both of his free throws to give Tufts a 4-point lead with two minutes left in the game. A pair of free throws from Mayer cut the lead to two, but Firempong hit a floater that gave the Jumbos a 66-62 lead with 1:10 to go.

A clutch trey for the Ephs by Greenman cut the margin to one point in the final minute of the game, and, following a missed hook shot by Sabety, Greenman hit a fadeaway jumper from the left side to give the Ephs a one-point advantage with nine seconds to play.

On the other end, Sabety got the rebound off of a Firempong miss and was fouled, sending him to the line with 3 seconds in regulation. Sabety hit his first, but was unable to convert his second shot. After Wohl's half-court buzzer-beater was short, the game went to overtime at 67 apiece.

Eph Taylor Epley took control from the start of the extra period. He opened the overtime with a three-point play, and then hit a pair of free throws to give the Ephs a five point lead. After a pair of free throws apiece from Firempong and Wohl and a jumper by Haladyna, Epley hit a trey to put the Ephs up by six. Another bucket from Epley and a coast-to-coast layup by Robinson with 1:27 remaining in overtime sealed the Jumbos' fate. A series of fouls and free throws for both teams followed, with the Eph lead never dropping below four, and the final buzzer rang with the score 87-77.

Eph Michael Mayer led all scorers with 30 points, 21 of which came in the second half, while Hunter Sabety led the Jumbos with 21. Jumbo Ben Ferris also notched a double-double, with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Tufts shot 45% from the field, while Williams hit 49% of its shots.

With the win, Williams advances to the NESCAC Semifinal round, where they will play Middlebury at Amherst next Saturday.