Williamstown, MA: The Ramapo College men's basketball team defeated #5 Williams College, 66-62, in the second round of the NCAA DIII National Tournament on Saturday night. With the win, the Roadrunners advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in team history.
Christopher Moseley kicked off the scoring with a layup at 19:25 in the first half, while Michael Kempton laid one home for the Ephs in the next possession. Williams was feeling it from deep early as Bobby Casey knocked in two shots from beyond the arc to take a 13-6 lead early. However, the Roadrunners – led by captain Tom Bonacum – went on an 8-0 run near the 10-minute mark to notch a 18-15 lead. After the Ephs claimed a nine-point lead thanks to a couple made baskets from James Heskett, Bonacum, once again, led another run that saw Williams scoreless for the rest of the first half. The Roadrunners poured in 10 points with Bonacum notching five of those, while Josh Ford and Rob McWilliams hit a bucket apiece as well. The run gave the Roadrunners a 35-33 lead at the half, with Bonacum leading the team at 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including two threes. Rob Lewis and Moseley each had six points as well.
It was a stale start for both teams when play resumed in the second half, as a three from Bonacum at 17:08 was the first bucket. But, after a Marcos Soto three, Jimbo Long would come back on Ramapo's next possession and hit a three himself to move the lead to five. The Ephs, though, weren't going to let the game slip. Starting at 11:19, Casey hit another three, and Heskett hit back-to-back layups to bring the home team within one. As both teams traded buckets back and forth throughout the half, the Roadrunners held the lead most of the time. That is until Casey and Heskett led another Ephs run, this time a seven-point spurt that helped them reclaim the lead. Fighting against the sold-out crowd, Ramapo continued to fight with Moseley hitting two clutch free throws to regain the lead with three minutes left. Bonacum hit a pair of his own after a minute-and-a-half went by. Heskett came down on the other end and tried a three to tie the game, but the Roadrunners got the defensive board and came up the floor, needing a bucket to push the lead to five.
With Ford taking it up, he dropped it off to Bonacum who drove to the lane and beautifully dropped a pass off for Nick Stanek, who laid the ball in with 27 seconds to play. The Ephs tried a desperation three, but Bonacum retained the board and was fouled with 13 seconds to play. After knocking in the two free throws, Casey hit a three at the buzzer. But it was too little too late. The Roadrunners rushed the court after securing their spot in the Sweet 16.
Bonacum tied his career-high in points (33) while tallying 13 rebounds for a double-double. He had no words for the performance the Roadrunners needed to move on.
"Speechless right now," he said. "I mean I made shots. I try to play the same way every day and luckily I had the game of my life. I'm just so happy."
Head coach Chuck McBreen noted how Bonacum struggled from the field this season, but that couldn't be told in this one.
"As a whole, it is such a difficult place to win, it's such a storied program. It has not just conference championship, but national championship and to come into their building we knew it was going to be difficult," McBreen said. "We were going to have to play something exceptional and we couldn't have foreseen him having the night that he had tonight. We know what he was capable of. He was a first-team All-American as a junior and tonight he played like a first-team All-American."
A great shooting team in the Ephs, the Roadrunners held them to under 40 percent from the field, and Moseley said making them work quick was the key on the defensive end. "We just wanted to speed them up this game because we knew they liked to play in the half court," he said. "So we played our press and I feel like it really slowed them down so they couldn't run their sets.
"My shot wasn't falling like I wanted to, so I just tried to lock in defensively and get as many stops as we could in a row so we could pull this game out."
The Roadrunners are now 10-8 in NCAA Tournament play as they notched their fifth straight win in the process. They want to keep that winning streak going, and Moseley summed it up perfectly when asked how the team will look to do that.
"We just got to keep playing our game," Moseley said. "Play Ramapo basketball. Play together."
Bonacum added: "The five seniors, we couldn't be any closer. All of us would do anything for the other one, and we don't want to see the other person lose and end their career. I go out every night and play for the four of them and the rest of my team and coaches and they do the same for me. That's what is going to keep us going."
The location and time of the next round are to-be-determined and will be announced by the NCAA by Monday.