FITCHBURG --- The Fitchburg State University men's basketball snapped into shape during the final ten minutes of the second half, erasing a 41-28 halftime gap before ultimately falling to the Ephs of Williams College by the final score of 68-64 on Monday night.
Williams College was lifted by a pair of double-doubles as senior Daniel Aronowitz (21 points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore Kyle Scadlock (16 points, 11 rebounds) both achieved the feat during the victory at Parkinson's Gymnasium. For Aronowitz it was his sixth of the season. Scadlock's second.
"We had some momentum in the first-half, it wasn't all bad. We got some stops and got some confidence. The guys, I think, knew we could make a run and we did. We were right there," said Falcons' head coach Titus Manderson. "That's what these games are all about. It's important to play top-teams in the country, Williams is certainly right there. Hopefully we learn from it."
Size was a factor throughout the first-half as the smaller Falcons lineup was forced to the outside offensively and not much was falling early on. The team quickly found themselves in a hole after the Ephs scored nine unanswered points to extend a fifteen-point 21-6 lead with 12:24 to go in the opening stanza.
Williams kept its fifteen-point reach when junior Cole Teal knocked down his third three-pointer in the first half, but saw it matched when Fitchburg's Leonny Burgos knocked down one of his own, reducing the gap to 28-16 with 5:45 left in the frame.
The Falcons finished the first half stronger than it started, slightly edging the visitors on a 12-11 scoring tradeoff, highlighted by a left-handed finger roll just before the buzzer from senior guard Jaleel Bell (41-28).
After the halftime break, Fitchburg State matched its intensity from the end of the first, responding to an Ephs 7-2 opening run by dropping in 13 unanswered points from six separate players, and cutting the lead to 48-43 with over fifteen minutes left in the game.
Williams was able to extend the lead back up to ten points but the Falcons kept coming offensively and defensively, turning the intensity into points as six from senior Lance Hill anchored a comeback to tie the game at 57 each with 5:45 remaining.
"[I'm] very proud. They played hard and that's been the trend for us in these past few games. It gives me confidence in league play and makes me feel like we can do really well," said coach Manderson on his team's play during the competitive stretch of the second half.
But there was still five minutes on the clock, and the Ephs resorted back to their larger lineup, causing trouble for Fitchburg State's guards and scoring nine straight points (67-59).
While down three with 9.4 seconds remaining, Bell heaved a shot from the elbow in hopes of turning the game to overtime, but had it ricochet off the backboard. Forced to foul, Fitchburg State sent sophomore Bobby Casey to the line, who iced the game away with a made free throw for the final of 68-64.
Bell led the contest in scoring with 22 points, logging his 11th 20+ point game of the season. Burgos added 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while juniors Josh Bosworth and Chima Ebele came up with nine and eight rebounds respectively.
The Ephs were lifted by senior Daniel Aronowitz who recorded his sixth double-double of the season, logging a team-high 21 points and game-high 11 rebounds.
Throughout the contest, Fitchburg State shot 23-of-63 from the field and 2-of-13 from beyond the arc while knocking down 16-of-21 from the free thrown stripe. Williams College was 22-of-61 shooting with 9-of-29 coming from triple and 15-of-23 from foul line.
The Ephs held a slight lead on the glass, pulling down 47 rebounds to the Falcons 41. The Green & Gold forced eight steals and blocked seven shots during the setback.
Next up, Fitchburg State (10-10, 5-2 MASCAC) host the first of five-straight Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference opponents on February 4th when they welcome Bridgewater State for a 1:00 PM tip. Williams (14-6, 2-4 NESCAC) host Wesleyan University on February 3rd at 7:00 PM for a contest with league-implications.
Release courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Kyle Prudhomme