MIDDLEBURY-Middlebury College won its second NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship with a 63-54 win at Williams in the title game last week.
The Panthers earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will make their fourth consecutive trip to the tourney when the pairings are announced Monday afternoon.
The victory ties the Middlebury record for wins in a season, as the Panthers improve to 25-1, avenging their only loss of the season. The loss snaps a 34-game home winning streak for the Ephs, who fall to 25-2 and are expected to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead over the Ephs. At the 12:36 mark, Nolan Thompson hit a three-pointer from the right side and on the following possession had a long two from the top to put the Panther lead to eight at 16-8.
The lead grew to 10 on two occasions, before Williams went on a 12-0 run to take a 22-20 lead with 5:14 remaining on a three from James Wang. Middlebury answered with a 7-0 spurt, eventually taking a 32-27 lead into the intermission. Thompson finished with 15 points in the game, all of them coming in the opening half.
Middlebury extended its lead to nine before back-to-back threes from James Klemm and Harlan Dodson cut the lead to 36-33 at the 16:38 mark.
Just under two minutes later, Ryan Sharry backed down in the paint and finished to push the lead back to four after the Ephs finally cut it down to two. Hoping to give some momentum back to his Ephs, Whittington responded with a one-handed hoop before Joey Kizel took the ball the length of the court for an easy bucket.
When Hayden Rooke-Ley drove to the hoop with 9:24 to play to make the score 46-44, Kizel responded yet again with a hoop of his own. After Sharry had a nice put-back off of a rebound to push the Panthers' lead to six, the Ephs were forced to take their third timeout of the game.
The lead was cut to four before a dunk from Andrew Locke and a three from Jake Wolfin gave the Panthers a 55-46 lead with 7:14 remaining. The Ephs made it a three-point game (57-54) at the 1:37 mark after a pair of free throws from Troy Whittington. Williams was forced to foul down the stretch, with the Panthers going 6-6 in the game's final 43 seconds to seal the win.
Thompson was one of four Panthers in double-figures, with Ryan Sharry adding 14 points and a dozen boards. Kizel finished with 13, while Wolfin added 11. Whittington netted 13 for the Ephs, while Wang added 12. The Middlebury defense held the Ephs to just 31.5 percent shooting from the field.