Panther men lose to Ephs in basketball

AMHERST, Mass. — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team’s season ended on Saturday with a 78-75 loss to Williams in a NESCAC semifinal played at Amherst College.
The 17-9 Panthers led at the half, 50-39, but the 23-4 Ephs rallied in the second half. Williams fell to host Amherst in the NESCAC final on Sunday. Both those teams received NCAA Division III tournament bids, but the Panthers’ six-year NCAA streak was snapped.
In the first half, Middlebury shot 64.5 percent (20-for-31) from the field and 71.4 percent (10-for-14) on three-pointers, but only 28.6 percent (8-for-28) overall and 2-for-11 from behind the arc in the second half.
Down by four with less than six and a half minutes to go in the first half, the Panthers went on a 20-3 run over a stretch of 5:32. Senior James Jensen got things going with a jumper at 6:24 before Jake Brown drained a three-pointer the next time down the floor. After a layup by senior Jack Roberts, senior Joey Kizel connected on a triple to make it 40-34.
Brown hit a jumper at 2:46 before Michael Mayer (27 points) ended Williams’ scoreless streak with a trey at 2:33. Roberts answered with another bucket down low before consecutive Kizel triples put the Panthers up, 50-37. A Williams bucket then made it 50-39 at the break.
Dylan Sinnickson pushed the Middlebury cushion to 13 with a layup at 19:17. But the Ephs whittled the lead down to three over the next six-plus minutes with a 14-4 run.
Mike Greenman got the rally started with a three-pointer at 17:47. Mayer then netted four-straight points before a Taylor Epley three made it 54-49. After a pair of Hunter Merryman free throws, Mayer drove the lane for two before Hayden Rooke-Ley hit a pair from the charity stripe to cap off a 14-4 Williams run.
A Brown jumper at 12:21 snapped a nearly five-minute Middlebury field goal drought and sparked an 8-2 spurt that put the Panthers on top, 64-55. But Williams scored nine unanswered in 2:58, pulling even with just under seven and a half minutes to go.
With the score 70-70 inside of the three-minute mark, Mayer converted a three-point play inside to give Williams its first lead since 6:24 of the first half. After Middlebury pulled even on a Sinnickson free throw and a Jensen jumper, Eph Hayden Rooke-Ley hit two go-ahead free throws with just 40 seconds on the clock. The Ephs sealed the win with three more free throws.
Kizel paced Middlebury with 24 points and tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds. Sinnickson finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Merryman chipped in with 12 points and four boards.

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