WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Williams College's Ephs produced the points when they needed them down the stretch Friday, pulling away from the Virginia Wesleyan College Marlins in the final four minutes to post a 79-73 victory in a regional semifinal contest at Williams.
The Ephs (28-2), who trailed 34-27 at halftime and most of the second half, took their first lead of the second half with 5:55 remaining to be played when senior Troy Whittington (Brooklyn, N.Y./Friends Seminary) dunked the ball off an assist from Nate Robertson (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer). Williams led 60-59 at that point and held off Virginia Wesleyan (25-5) the rest of the way.
The Marlins trailed just 62-60 with 4:25 remaining, but Whittington hit two free throws to pad the Williams lead. Key triples in the next minutes by James Wang (Sydney, Australia/Canterbury) and Harlan Dodson (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell) gave the Ephs some breathing room, with Dodson's triple give the host team a 72-64 lead.
Williams protected its lead the rest of the way at the free throw line, hitting 6-of-10. Chris Teasley (Newport News, Va./Menchville) hit a big triple and two free throws to keep VWC close, but the Ephs used the line to keep the Marlins at bay.
"I thought it was a tale of two halves," said VWC head coach David Macedo. "I do believe it was a great game with a great atmosphere. A lot of our team grew up today. Williams made some big plays in important times in the second half. We played good "D" all game. but couldn't get stops down the stretch, hats off to them."
Williams, ranked No. 4 nationally in free throw accuracy, maintained that position by hitting 27-of-35 charity tosses in the game, including 19-of-24 to help in the second half comeback. Virginia Wesleyan hit 3-of-5 free throws in the first half and 10-of-16 for the game.
The free throw success helped make up for the Ephs' off-night from three-point range as Williams hit just 6-of-18 long-range attempts. The Ephs entered the game ranked No. 4 nationally in triples made per game, averaging 10.7. Virginia Wesleyan, which averaged 7.8 triples made per contest, hit 9-of-23 against the Ephs, led by sophomore Tre' Ford (Falls Church, Va./J.E.B. Stuart) with three.
Virginia Wesleyan also dominated on the backboards, outrebounding Williams 43-33, led by Chris Astorga (Suffolk, Va./Virginia Beach Cape Henry)with 11. Whittington pulled down 11 for the Ephs.
Williams started strong, racing out to a 13-2 lead behind Whittington, who scored the Ephs' first eight points. VWC came back gradually howver, helped by timely triples from junior Ed Roberts (Chesapeake, Va./Deep Creek)and Ford. The Marlins took a 16-15 lead when Teasley scored on a layup with 9:27 remaining in the first half.
Virginia Wesleyan maintained the lead through the remainder of the half, pushing out to a 23-15 lead with scoring from Teasley and Art Crew (Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette). Balanced scoring from Rakeem Davis (Chesapeake, Va./Deep Creek), DJ Woodmore (Virginia Beach/Landstown), Ali Brown (Hampton, Va./Kecoughtan) and Roberts kept the Marlins in front to the break, with VWC up 34-27.
A Wang triple to open scoring in the second half cut into the Marlins' lead, but back-to-back triples from Ford and Woodmore helped keep VWC in front, 43-36 with 16:35 on the clock. A dunk by Donald Vaughn (Woodbridge, Va./Dumfries Potomac) made it a 50-43 Marlin lead with 12:26 showing.
Scoring by Whittington and Hayden Rooke-Ley (Eugune, Ore./South Eugene) helped pull Williams closer however, and the Ephs jumped in front for the first time on Whittington's dunk with 5:55 remaining in the game.
Whittington, ranked No. 1 in the nation in field goal accuracy, hitting 71.6% of his shots, hit 10-of-14 against the Marlins en route to scoring 28 points. He also knocked down 8-of-10 free throws. Wang was the only other Eph to hit double-figure scoring, finishing with 16 points, despite shooting 4-of-12 from the field.
Teasley led Virginia Wesleyan with 17 points, hitting 6-of-14 field goal attempts. Woodmore added 13 points and Ford finished with 11 points.
VWC's appearance in the NCAA tournament was its seventh in a row under the leadership of head coach David Macedo. The Marlins played throughout the 2010-11 season without a senior in the line-up.