By Matt Noonan
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – In case you haven’t subscribed to this so-called, “Amherst-Williams rivalry,” now’s the time.
In an epic dogfight on Wednesday evening in the northwestern part of the state of Massachusetts, the Lord Jeffs pulled out an epic 67-65 victory when sophomore Aaron Toomey, (16 points, three rebounds, three assists) sank two back-to-back free throws with less than five seconds remaining in regulation, which secured their 16th victory of the season.
“Every time you beat Williams at Williams or beat Williams in general, it’s always a big to do,” said Amherst head coach David Hixon. “
“It was certainly a slugfest, and two proud programs going toe-to-toe,” said Williams’ head coach Mike Maker.
Amherst began the game as they usually do with a few buckets, but Williams answered by finishing the half with 12 shots from the field.
Toomey led Amherst with 11 points in the first half, which included one three-pointer, and four free throws, as the Lord Jeffs entered the locker room with a 39-31 advantage.
“He’s great with the ball in his hands, he gets fouled a lot, he makes free throws, he wins games, so you trust him,” said Hixon, when asked to describe the play of Toomey.
However, once the second half began, Amherst’s offensive spark faded, which allowed Williams to begin an impeccable comeback.
Sophomore Michael Mayer helped the Ephs begin this “journey” with a layup, which was followed by a trifecta from sophomore Hayden Rooke-Ley.
The Ephs continued to chip away at the lead and came within three points when senior Brian Emerson slammed home a monstrous dunk with 5:19 remaining, which electrified the hometown crowd.
Yet, Amherst somehow found a way to rebuild their lead when junior Peter Kaasila, (16 points, six rebounds) added a layup before he sank a few free throws. Toomey added a handful of free throws, too, but Williams once again showed their resiliency when sophomore Taylor Epley connected on one of two foul shots, which tied the game, 65-65 with 14 seconds left.
Toomey then drew a foul during the closing seconds after Epley’s free throw, and made both of his free throws, despite a timeout that occurred between the first and second shot, which helped his team earn their first victory of the season against Williams College.
“[This] is something we haven’t done in close games this year so far, but we came out tonight, and the past week, we’ve had great practices, we’ve really came together as a team, and through that, we came together as a team at this game, and although we were missing shots early in the half,” said Toomey. “It’s all about 20 minutes, 40 minutes the whole game, 20 minutes in the second half, and that’s what it’s all about.”
“Our guys didn’t quit,” said Maker. “We have great kids, and I think they represent the program and institution the way it richly deserves to be presented and they’re not going to quit, down double-digits, and deep into the second half and to make a run like that on that talented of a basketball team [is quite impressive]. We had our opportunities to win, but the ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Amherst will cap off their four-game road trip on Saturday at Trinity, while Williams will head to Middlebury; both games are slated for 4:00pm.