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Cats put up a fight in NESCAC quarterfinal loss to Ephs

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The Bates men's basketball team made one of the top teams in Division III fight until the end to advance past them, as second-seeded Williams ended the Bobcats' season with an 88-79 win in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship on Saturday in Chandler Gym.

A 10-point scoring outburst by Williams junior forward Taylor Epley early in the second half boosted the 10th-ranked Ephs to 22-3, while the Bobcats end their season at 10-15. The loss marks the end of the collegiate careers of seniors Ed Bogdanovich (Portland, Maine), Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.), Taylor Gartley (Rockport, Maine) and John Murphy (Yarmouth, Maine).

The Bobcats had four players in double figures, led by first-year Mike Boornazian's (Portland, Conn.) 20, 14 of which were scored in the second half. Sophomore Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) and Bogdanovich each netted 16 and Brust added 11. Junior guard Luke Matarazzo (Shelton, Conn.) scored eight points with a season-high eight assists.

Williams advances to the semifinal round of the NESCAC tourney next Saturday to be played at Amherst. The Ephs will face Middlebury College at 4pm.

The game opened with both teams hitting their first two floor shots, a two and a three, but with the score tied at 5, the Ephs’ John Weinheimer missed a reverse layin, but kept after the ball and fed a cutting Mike Mayer who laid the ball in the hoop to give Williams a 7-5 lead. The Ephs never relinquished the lead after that.

Weinheimer answered a three by Safford with a crossover from top left of key and his left handed layin put Williams up 16-10.

A drive on the left baseline resulted in a hoop for Bates junior Sean Cunningham (Amherst, Mass.), and it cut the Eph lead to 1, 18-17.

The Ephs then got two points by Sean Hoffmann to move the lead to three, 20-17. Hoffmann was fouled on a dunk attempt by Gartley and made both free throws. With 9:11 left in the half the Eph lead grew to seven when Mike Mayer hit two free throws, making it 26-19. Bates got to within three with 6:46 left when Matarazzo hit two free throws, making the score 28-25, Williams.

A conventional three-point play by Hoffmann gave Williams its largest lead of the half, 36-27, with 4:41 left. But Brust and Boornazian hit threes to cut the Eph lead to six, 36-30 with 3:38 left.

A second Boornazian three attempt from in front of Eph bench rattled out and that was followed up by another drive to the hoop for a layin by Weinheimer, putting the Ephs up 38-33 going into the break.

Bates hit 11 of 22 (50%) field goal attempts in the first half, including 6-10 threes. The Ephs were 14-26 (53%) from the floor and 3-9 (33%) from distance.

In the opening 20 minutes, Safford led Bates with 10 points, while Nate Robertson led Williams with 11.

With 17:30 left in the second half, Epley ignited the Williams attack when he tallied 10 straight points in just over 2 minutes of action. Epley’s explosion came on consecutive possessions as he hit three two-point hoops, a foul shot and a three, giving Williams a 13-point lead, 50-37 at 15:56. The lead rose to 16 when James Klemm hit a long three, compelling Bates head coach Jon Furbush to call a timeout with 14:47 left. Williams built the lead to 18 at 10:13 when a Mike Mayer layup made the score 63-45.

A Boornazian basket with 6:15 to play cut the Eph lead to 11, but James Klemm answered with another three-pointer, one of four on the day, and Williams was up 14 with 5:59 left.

But Bates continued to refuse to make things easy for the host Ephs. With 1:23 left in the contest, Bates cut the lead to 10 when Matarazzo scored on a layup. He further cut the Eph lead down to seven with 1:12 to play, nailing a three after a Williams turnover in its backcourt. Williams then made five of six free throws to claim the 88-79 win.

Bates connected on 26-58 field goal attempts (44.8%), including 9-26 (34.6%) from three.

Williams was led in scoring by Klemm with 20, going 4-8 from three. Robertson added 19, Epley 17 and Mayer had 14.

Williams hit on 29-51 from the floor (56.9%) and 6-16 (37.5%) from three.

Bates outrebounded the Ephs 31-30 with Bogdanovich the top Bobcat collector, gathering in 8. Mayer with a game-high 10 rebounds was the lone player to record a double double on the day.

The Bobcats made 18 of 23 (86.7%) free throws, while Williams converted on 17-20 (82.8%). Bates was charged with 8 turnovers in the contest and Williams 7.