January 30, 2012

 Trailing 80-79, James Wang’s last-second 21-footer clanked off the back iron, ending the hopes of a Williams upset of top-ranked Middlebury at Pepin Gym on Saturday. The nation’s number one team improved to 18-0, setting a new school record for consecutive wins, and now owns a 20-game home winning streak. The 13th-ranked Ephs (15-5, 3-3) were the team that stopped the Panthers’ previous best winning streak at 17 nearly a year ago to the day, topping Middlebury 69-64 in Williamstown on January 29, 2011.

The Panthers took an early 6-0 advantage on threes from junior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) and senior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.). Williams kept it close over the next few minutes before Middlebury took its biggest lead of the half on a short jumper by first-year player Dylan Sinnickson (Sands Point, N.Y.) at 13:12, for a 16-9 Panther advantage. The Ephs responded with a 10-2 run over the next three-plus minutes, highlighted by eight points from Michael Mayer, including the go-ahead bucket at 9:30 for their first lead of the game at 19-18. The teams exchanged the lead four more times before Middlebury junior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) broke a 33-33 deadlock on a lay-up with 1:03 left to play in the half. Lynch followed the bucket with a hoop and a free throw with 27 seconds to play, giving the Panthers a 38-33 lead at intermission.

Middlebury opened its first double-digit advantage in the second half when sophomore Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) capped a quick 11-5 spurt on a jumper for a 49-38 lead with 16:40 left to play.  The lead bumped to a dozen two minutes later on a three from Kizel before the Ephs made their comeback.

Trailing 60-51, Williams went on a 7-2 run, highlighted by Talyor Epley’s three free throws after enticing Sharry into his fourth foul of the game on a three-point attempt at 8:05. As Sharry sat down, Epley sank all three shots, cutting the deficit to 62-58. With Middlebury’s top scorer on the bench, the Panthers held tough, even as Lynch collected his fourth foul at 6:57 and grabbed a seat on the sidelines with Sharry. Middlebury rebuilt its lead to 68-59 without key components of their front court on a three by senior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) at the 6:19 mark.
The Ephs roared back on a 10-4 run over the next three minutes. Mayer chipped in four points as James Klemm and Epley each hit from behind the arc, setting the score at 72-69 in favor of Middlebury with 3:05 left in the game.

Sharry and Lynch re-entered the game at 2:08 with Middlebury holding a 75-71 lead. A pair of Mayer free throws at 1:20 trimmed the Panther advantage to 75-72, before Lynch answered with a basket with 54 seconds off a feed from Wolfin. Nate Robinson answered for Williams with his own point-blank bucket with 38 seconds left.

The Ephs decided to foul down the stretch, but only committing four team fouls in the half, the Ephs needed to rack up three team fouls to force the Panthers to the line for one-and-one opportunities. With 27 seconds left, Williams earned its seventh team foul, sending Sharry to the stripe. Sharry knocked down both ends of the one-and-one for a 79-75 lead. Another Robinson lay-up cut the lead to 79-77 as the Ephs called their final time out with 16 seconds left. Forced again to foul, Williams sent Kizel to the line. After hitting the first free throw, Kizel’s second shot bounced out as Mayer quickly sent the ball to Wang who scored a lay-up with seven seconds left, cutting the Middlebury lead to 80-79. Kizel was found shortly after the in-bound pass, but missed the front end of his on-and-one attempt. Mayer collected the Kizel miss and sent the ball to Wang who dribbled and squared up for the open look on the right wing, but the potential 21-foot game-winner went long off the back of the rim as time expired.

For the game, the Panthers committed just five turnovers with 19 assists, as Williams notched 10 giveaways with a dozen helpers. Both teams shot well from the floor with the Panthers holding a slight advantage, 54.2% to the Ephs 53.1%, but the Ephs held a decisive free throw advantage as the visitors made 19-24 charity tosses to Middlebury’s 9-11.

Four different Panthers hit double-figures as Sharry led with 19 on 7/10 shooting, while Wolfin added 16 with a game-high seven assists. Kizel and Lynch each netted 15, as Thompson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

Middlebury topped Plattsburgh (6-10) 73-54 in a non-conference game played in Pepin Gym on Tuesday. Sharry led top-ranked Middlebury with 20 points and 13 rebounds, earning his 30th career double-double.

Middlebury trailed 4-2 early before going on a 10-0 run to take a 12-4 lead at the 11:53 mark. Sharry and Sinnickson each scored four during the early spurt. The lead grew to as many as 12, with the Panthers holding a 28-16 advantage with 5:02 remaining in the first half. The Cardinals came within six, before a late tip-in from sophomore Jack Roberts (Moylan, Pa.) gave Middlebury a 32-24 lead at the intermission.
 Plattsburgh cut the lead to five twice in the second half, with Middlebury slowing extending its advantage. Leading 54-45, the Panthers scored 16 of the game’s next 18 points over a 5:27 span, taking a 70-47 lead with 2:06 remaining.

Sharry added four blocks in the game, to go along with his 10-14 shooting from the floor.  Thompson scored 14 with eight boards in the win, Sinnickson added 10, while Wolfin tied a career-high with a dozen assists.
• Men’s Basketball record: 18-0
• Up next: 1/31 @ Keene St., 2/3 vs. Bowdoin – 8:00, 2/4 vs. Colby – 4:00