Late heroics help Amherst College basketball upend rival Williams

  • Mike

Special to The Gazette
Published: 1/7/2023 3:26:05 PM
Modified: 1/7/2023 3:22:57 PM

AMHERST — The biggest play of the night was made by the smallest player on the floor.

Canin Reynolds’ drive and dish to Ryker Vance with 6.9 seconds left to play led to an old-fashioned 3-point play. That gave Amherst enough of a cushion to hold off third-ranked Williams 53-51, handing the Ephs their first loss of the season.

It was the NESCAC conference opener for both teams.

"I knew they were going to collapse. That was on the scouting report. We all knew they were going to collapse as soon as we attacked," said Reynolds. "My big, I knew was going to finish. I have confidence in everybody on the court. He finished the play, and that's all we needed."

In a game with nine lead changes and five ties, Williams took a 51-48 lead on a pair of free throws by Cole Prowitt-Smith with 2:20 left in the game. It was the last time Williams scored as the Ephs went 0 for 4 in that last 2:20.

“It’s huge, because we’ve dropped a couple we shouldn’t have dropped,” said Reynolds. “We just beat the No. 3 team in the country and it’s the start of a new season. We’ve got a lot coming.”

With the win, Amherst is now 5-7 and importantly, 1-0 in NESCAC. Williams is now 12-1 and 0-1 in the league. The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Mammoths. Both losses, to California-Santa Cruz and Wesleyan, were one possession games.

It marked the second straight year that Amherst beat Williams in the NESCAC game. Twelve months ago, that game was played in Williamstown.

So while it was only the third time Marlon Sears coached against the Ephs, the second-year Amherst coach couldn't hide his smile.

"Oh, my goodness. These are exhausting right here," he said. "Kudos to [Williams]. They've got terrific players. They're mature. They're old. I love my team though. I have a bunch of young guys I think are terrific."

Chris Hammond came off the bench to lead Amherst with 12 points, while Vance was the only starter to score in double figures. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Williams was led by sophomore Declan Porter, who had 14 points. Porter and the Williams outside shooters had difficulties finding open looks at the basket. Williams shoots 35 percent from 3-point range with Porter and Prowitt-Smith both shooting nearly 50 percent from outside the arc. The Mammoths wanted to make it really difficult for the Williams shooters.

“Part of our defensive game plan was to really key in on Declan Porter,” said Sears. “I felt like watching film, he was a huge key to their team. He’s a kid, when he hits four or more threes, they’re really good. We tried to just really key in on him, and do the best job we could to keep Cole Prowitt-Smith in front of us, another terrific player.”

No team led by more than two possessions in the game. The largest Amherst lead was five points, at 15-10 with 9:23 left in the first half. The largest Williams lead was 3 points. One came with 12:41 left in the first half, and the other came with 2:20 to play.

Out of an Amherst time out, the Mammoths tied the game at 47 when Giovanni Tam made 1 of 2 from the line with 6:04 left. Two minutes later, Vance was fouled by Hansen and made the second of two foul shots, giving the hosts a 48-47 lead.

Karren turned the ball over on the next Williams possession, and App called time out. Spencer Spivy, who had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, stole the ball from Canin Reynolds. Evan Glatzer then took a pass in the right corner from Karren, driving the baseline and scoring on a layup to give Williams a 49-48 lead.

Mohammed Alausa missed a jumper on the next trip down for Amherst, Spivy rebounded and Prowitt-Smith was fouled going to the basket. He made two free throws and Williams was up 51-48 with 2:20 left to play. 

The way Williams was playing defense, it seemed like that score was going to hold up. Sometimes, however, it is better to be lucky than good, and Amherst was a little bit of both on the next trip down. C.J. Mitchell had his 3-point shot blocked by Prowitt-Smith. The ball never made it to the rim, Vance caught it and scored inside, cutting the Williams lead to 51-50.

Williams had four chances to extend the lead, but came up empty. Then, out of an Amherst time out with 22.1 seconds to play, Reynolds took the ball from the top of the key, drove into the paint and dished to Vance for the hoop. Vance was fouled by Karren and completed the 3-point play.

Prowitt-Smith missed a shot and the ball was knocked out of bounds by Amherst with 4-tenths of a second left in the game. Prowitt-Smith inbounded to a cutting Hudson Hansen, but the first-year could not get a shot off as he cut into the paint. The horn sounded and the Amherst coaches and players started celebrating.

“It was a good learning experience for all of us,” said Williams’ Porter. “First league game here at Amherst. They did a great job. Hats off to them for making big plays down the stretch. At the end of the day, it’s a learning experience.

“It’s not a race, it’s a marathon and we have to take it to the next level and be ready for Hamilton [Saturday].”

Williams will be at Hamilton, while Amherst will host Middlebury on Saturday. The eighth-ranked Panthers dropped a 65-56 game at Hamilton Friday night.

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