Ephs clinch spot in NCAA finals


Saturday March 20, 2010

SALEM, Va. -- At halftime, Noah Sandstrom could have reason to look down, but he wasn't.

His Williams College men's basketball team trailed Guilford College by eight points, had committed 11 turnovers, and Guilford had momentum.

"I'm confident," Sandstrom said at halftime of the NCAA Division III national basketball semifinal at the Salem Civic Center. "We've got our fans down here, this time we're shooting down here and we're going to light it up."

Sandstrom, a Williams College professor, was decked out in a purple and white jump suit, his face was painted purple and gold and he wore a purple wig. His prediction turned out to be so spot-on, that if Sandstrom and his car full of passengers stop at Atlantic City on the way back, they'll probably win a bunch of money.

The basketball team made Sandstrom out to be a prophet as the Ephs shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half and 71.4 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in a 97-88 win that put Williams into its first national championship game since 2004.

"No doubts," Williams senior Jimmy Dunn of Stamford, Vt., said after the game.

Dunn and Sandstrom were part of an enthusiastic Williams contingent that included students, Berkshire County residents, former players and two former Eph head coaches. Harry Sheehy is here as Williams' athletic director while Dave Paulsen -- who won the 2003 national title in Williamstown -- drove down from Pennsylvania with his wife Kathy and children. He is now the head coach at Division I Bucknell.

Dunn said he and the group in his car were a little nervous when they left Williamstown.

"We left last night at 12:30, and drove all night," said Dunn, who is now on spring break with the rest of the college. "I knew if we came and played, if we shot how we shoot all year, no one can jump over us. It doesn't matter if they have a guy 6-9 who averages more points than Joe [Geoghegan] and Troy [Whittington] combined."

Karen Whalen, Williams' assistant athletic director for finance said the school sold 148 ticket packages for the weekend on campus.

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"I can't even begin to count the e-mails Harry had" about people coming here, Whalen said after the game. "I can tell by the students in the crowd that a lot of them drove down Friday. There are more than 148 people here."

Four of them shared a car. Don Dagnoli, Dave Chenail and Mike Deep of North Adams drove down with Walter Hayn of Williamstown.

"It took us 10 hours exactly," Dagnoli said. "We drove one hour each, 60 minutes, so we stopped after 60 minutes -- each one of us. We set the clock to 60 minutes and pulled over wherever we were and got out. If we were getting low on gas, we timed it to fill the tank."

Dagnoli has been at four of Williams' five Final Four trips, missing only in 1998.

"It's great to be back," he said. "It's a different team every time. It's sort of new and it's great to be here."

And other than head coach Mike Maker and the team, probably the most excited person in the building was Mike Maker's father Bill, who traveled all the way from California.

"Without a doubt," the senior Maker said. "This is his dream. At 8 years old, he tells me he always wanted to be a basketball coach.

"This is his dream. He does a great job with young men, building them. I'm just so excited
for Williams."

It's not only Mike Maker's dream.

"It's my senior year in college," said Dunn, "and I'm never going to have an opportunity like this again. We were up all night driving. Some of us fell asleep on the way down. We took turns driving.

"We came here to cheer on our team, and we're going to be here [today]."

To reach Howard Herman:
(413) 496-6253.


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