WILLIAMSTOWN -- If the Williams College basketball teams win their respective NESCAC championships this weekend, the victories will be sweeter because they would win the titles on the home court of their biggest rivals.
Amherst College’s LeFrak Gymnasium will host the men’s and women’s semifinals this weekend.
The second-seeded Williams men will play No. 3 Middlebury in the second game of the four-game series. The Ephs and Panthers will tip-off at 3 p.m. The women’s tournament semifinals begin at 5:30. The third-seeded Ephs will play No. 4 Middlebury in the 7:30 p.m. finale.
The men’s championship game is Sunday at noon, and the women’s game is at 2:30 p.m.
This semifinal is a rematch of a Jan. 26 game, the Ephs won 64-63 on Daniel Wohl’s layup with 31 seconds left in the game.
"We expect a conference semifinal game to be highly contested and it’s going to be that," Williams coach Mike Maker said.
Williams and Middlebury are tied for second in points for at 79.5 and points against at 64.1 The Ephs lead the conference in field goal percentage (50.4) and Middlebury is second (49.8)
Going into the Wayback Machine, the Ephs trailed 41-38 at halftime and were down 63-56 when Middlebury’s Nolan Thompson hit a 3-point shot with 4:21 left. From that point, the Ephs held the Panthers scoreless.
Taylor Epley hit a pair of
Wohl, who had a bout of mono, was cleared to practice without contact early in the week. The sophomore swingman has not played since the Amherst game, and will be a game-time decision. James Klemm, who missed the Trinity game with an injury, is back and hit four 3-pointers in the quarterfinal win against Bates.
Epley (18.1 points-per-game) and Mayer (17.2) are two of the top five scorers in NESCAC. Middlebury’s top scorer is senior Peter Lynch (15.1).
The Ephs are seeking their first-ever NESCAC title this year. Based on the seeds, the semifinals should have been at Tufts. But Williams coach Pat Manning said she isn’t surprised her team isn’t busing to Medford for the weekend.
"The eighth seed was sort of weird because of the tiebreaker. [Bowdoin] definitely [wasn’t] a typical eighth seed," said Manning. "They lost to Wesleyan by a point, otherwise they would have been the fourth seed at home."
When Williams and Middlebury played in January, the Ephs held the Panthers to 15 points in the first half and won 62-36. Claire Baecher led the Ephs with 20 points, while Middlebury’s Tracy Borsinger (14) was the only Panther in double figures.
The Ephs are second in NESCAC in team defense, giving up 44.4 points per game. They are tops in field goal percentage defense (28.4) and field goal percentage on offense (41.6).
"We really preach defense. We talk about defense and we have starters and kids off the bench that play great ‘D’," Manning said. "That’s what this team is all about."