WILLIAMSTOWN -- When the NCAA Tournament starts, it's time for upperclassmen to step into the spotlight.
Williams senior Mike Mayer did exactly that Friday night. The 6-foot-9 preseason All-American had 25 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocked shots as Williams pulled away in the second half to stave off an upset bid by Mitchell and beat the Mariners 81-66 in the second game of a Division III tournament first-round doubleheader.
"I think we had a size advantage in the interior and we wanted to work that early," said Mayer. "We made an effort to get the ball inside."
Mayer was one of five Ephs to score in double figures. Parris Hill had a game-high 31 points for Mitchell and had 14 rebounds. Joshua Ford had 18 points and 15 boards, but the rest of the Mariners scored 15 total points.
"Watching film of Mitchell, it catches your attention real quick because of their quickness and their athleticism around the goal," said Williams coach Mike Maker. "I thought it took us a while to get accustomed to that defensively. Once we went to the zone, I thought our length and our IQ really helped us."
It wasn't quite a wire-to-wire win for the Ephs (24-4), but the home team never trailed. The Mariners (19-8) tied the game three times in the first half, the last coming when Frank Martin scored when he picked Hayden Rooke-Ley clean with 11:03 left in the opening 20.
Rooke-Ley, who finished with 9 points, answered that with a 3-point shot from the right corner that found nothing but net. Duncan Robinson got the assist.
From that point, Williams nursed a lead that grew to seven and was as little as three before the Ephs closed out the first half with a 41-35 lead.
Daniel Wohl hit a three to open the second half and it helped Williams up its lead to 11 with less than three minutes gone. That forced Mitchell coach Todd Peretz to call time out.
Out of the time out, Martin hit a trey, cutting the Eph lead to 50-42. The Mariners didn't get any closer as Williams answered with six unanswered points and maintained a double-digit lead for much of the final eight minutes. Taylor Epley, who finished with 14 points, scored off a drive, Mayer scored on a putback and Ryan Kilcullen made two free throws off an inside shot attempt.
"We didn't do as well as I had anticipated in containing them off the dribble," said Peretz. "They're actually a lot more athletic than I thought they were.
"It's always hard to look at them on tape and get an idea. I thought they were a little more athletic and a little bit stronger."
In the first game of the doubleheader, Alex Carnes came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points as Gordon beat Babson 76-68. He was one of five Gordon players to score in double figures.
Hans Miersma, Gordon's 6-foot-9 center, had 10 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. Miersma and guard Taylor Bajema played for a Whitinsville Christian team that beat Lenox in the 2011 state Division III semifinals.
Gordon led 36-23 at halftime and didn't let the Beavers catch up in the second half. Now the Fighting Scots get the Ephs.
"I know enough that I'm scared out of my mind. No, at this point, it's all gravy honestly," said Gordon coach Tod Murphy. "I'm excited to have this opportunity to play against a great team like Williams."
Maker and his staff watched the first game and the Eph mentor said his team will be ready for Gordon.
"It's a contrast of styles. The preparation is very difficult because most of our week was in preparation for a quick, athletic, pressing, undersized, athletic team. Gordon is the opposite. They're a disciplined, half-court team," said Maker. "Each time you advance in the tournament, it gets tougher and tougher. I know our guys are up to the challenge."
To reach Howard Herman:
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On Twitter: @howardherman.