Photo Gallery | Williams at MCLA men's basketball
NORTH ADAMS — Dan Aronowitz scored a career-high 32 points for Williams College Tuesday night. Williams needed every one of them to hold off MCLA.
Aronowitz's offense and a Williams defense that held the Trailblazers to two points in the final two minutes of the game helped the Ephs (3-0) remain unbeaten in an 80-73 win at the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.
The junior forward from Columbus, Ohio, hit a 3-point basket with 6:16 left in the game that gave Williams a 63-61 lead, an advantage it would not surrender.
"That's a very, very good team we played," Aronowitz said. "We've been working hard every day in practice, trying to put ourselves in position to be effective and to come in on the road in a game like this and perform."
It was the second time in as many seasons that the Trailblazers gave Williams a battle. Last year in Williamstown, the Ephs escaped with an 82-71 victory. There were 18 lead changes and three ties in this year's game. Neither team led by more than six points until Aronowitz made two foul shots in the final seconds accounting for the seven-point victory.
"I'm pleased with how we played for the most part, but we have things we still need to clean up," MCLA coach Tony Skiffington said. "The things we have to clean up each game is getting less and less."
There are no moral victories as the Trailblazers fall to 2-3.
"We just played hard. We played as a team," said MCLA's Careem Kirksey. "We fought to the end."
Kirksey had 18 points while teammate Paul Maurice had 20 to pace MCLA. Maurice left the game in the second half with a leg injury.
The win may have been costly for Williams as starting guard Chris Galvin played only four minutes before leaving with an injury to his right hand. His status, like Maurice, is uncertain for the short term.
Williams led 45-39 at halftime, but the Ephs found scoring more difficult in the second half. The Trailblazers locked the back door in the final 20 minutes where Williams had done its share of scoring from in the first half.
Kyle Scadlock came off the bench to score 12 for Williams. The Ephs were, however, outrebounded 52-38 and 18-9 on the offensive glass. Dakari Hannah-Wornum had 14 rebounds and five blocked shots to go with seven points, while Khalil Paul had 11 boards.
"They have good players. We haven't played a team with that pace in transition yet, so it took us a little while to get used to it," Williams coach Kevin App said. "They play really hard. They get the ball up the court quick and they're flying in for offensive rebounds.
"They're good. It was a good test for us."
One thing Williams has been good at so far this year is keeping teams under wraps going into halftime and the end of the game. Williams held MCLA to one point in the last two minutes, taking a 45-39 lead at the break.
MCLA held Williams without a hoop for the first four minutes of the second half, outscoring the Ephs 11-2 and taking a 50-47 lead on Khalil Paul's fastbreak basket. The Trailblazers upped the lead to 55-49 when Williams' Marcos Soto was turned over by Maurice, who scored at the other end.
Williams came back with a 9-2 run to get the lead, and the teams traded the advantage until Aronowitz caught a pass from Cole Teal and drained the 3-pointer to give Williams a 63-61 lead with 6:16 to go.
Each time Williams threatened to pull away, MCLA fought back, and when Kirksey hit a 3-ball of his own with 2:17 left, the Trailblazers were down 72-71.
But with 16.6 seconds left, freshman Bobby Casey found Teal in the left corner and the sophomore guard drained the 3-point dagger that gave the Ephs the win. It was Teal's only basket of the game and one of a game-high four assists for Casey.
"We're 2-3. It's not a great number," said Skiffington. "We're going to get where we want to be. We play this type of independent schedule because when we go into conference, we're winning it. That's what we want. That's our goal."