WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Forward Thomas Bonacum's 33-point, 13-point double-double led Ramapo (23–6, 15–3 in the NJAC) to a 66-62 victory over No. 5 Williams (23–6, 7–3 in the NESCAC) tonight in the second round of the NCAA tournament. In a thunderous Chandler Gymnasium, the Ephs rallied from a second-half deficit to take a 59-58 lead with 3:24 left, but the Roadrunners scored eight straight points in the final minutes to clinch the game.
"It was a really hard-fought basketball game," Williams head coach Kevin App said. "Like any game between two good teams, there were runs going back and forth. [Ramapo] made a couple shots down the stretch, and we missed a couple. Unfortunately, in a close game, it comes down to that.
"I'm really proud of these guys. I thought it was a great effort by both teams."
Forward James Heskett '19 and guard Bobby Casey '19, who shot 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, each scored 21 points for Williams. Bonacum's dominance in the second half, however, gave Ramapo the victory. The 2017 NABC First Team All-American finished with half his team's points, scoring 33 on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and 6-of-6 at the free throw line. He played 38 minutes, including all 20 in the second half, adding 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block.
"We couldn't have foreseen him having the night that he had tonight," Ramapo head coach Chuck McBreen said. "Every time we needed a bucket, he came up big. You can't underemphasize how well he played today and his importance to our coming out barely on the winning end."
Ramapo used a full-court press to slow the Williams offense. Co-captain Mike Greenman '17.5 said that the Ephs did well to beat the press but were unable to convert scoring opportunities.
"We got exactly what we wanted, but we just didn't make shots," Greenman said. "We got wide-open looks. When we weren't making shots, we let that affect us on the defensive end a little bit, giving up a couple of easy baskets. When you're playing in the NCAA tournament and both teams are really good, that's the difference in some games.
"It was a great game between two teams. The other team made more shots down the stretch."
Williams jumped out to an early lead after 3-pointers from Heskett and Casey. Casey recorded 2 steals in the first four minutes and scored 7 of his team's first 13 points.
Down 15-8 at 13:41, the Roadrunners kept the Ephs scoreless over a four-minute stretch and tallied 10 straight points to take the lead. Bonacum hit jumpers on consecutive possessions, and a layup by forward Christopher Moseley gave Ramapo an 18-15 lead with 9:38 left in the half.
Greenman drilled two consecutive 3s to put the Ephs up 21-18. Ramapo guard Patrick Peterson answered with a jumper, but the Ephs outscored the Roadrunners 10-2 over the next 2:21. Williams took a 31-22 lead on free throws from Heskett with 5:44 left in the half.
The Ephs, however, missed their last seven shots of the half, and the Roadrunners finished the period on a 10-0 run. Bonacum hit a 3 and a layup on consecutive possessions to give Ramapo a 35-33 lead entering the break.
Bonacum had 14 points and 5 rebounds at halftime. For Williams, Casey had 11, and Heskett had 10.
Bonacum scored 15 of his team's first 18 points in the second half, propelling Ramapo to its largest lead of the game at 11:32. The Roadrunners led 48-40, but a 3 from Casey and consecutive layups by Heskett pulled the Ephs within one with 9:58 remaining.
Bonacum and Casey traded a pair of free throws before a Bonacum 3 and an and-one by Ramapo guard Josh Ford put the visitors up 56-49 with 6:09 left in the game. Williams pulled within four when co-captain guard Cole Teal '18 converted a 3 to make it 56-52. Roadrunner forward Nick Stanek, however, made a layup to bring the gap back to six.
The Ephs then scored seven unanswered points to take a 59-58 lead. Casey made a driving layup, and Teal found Heskett for a dunk on the next possession, animating the home crowd. After a defensive stop, Heskett sank a 3 in transition to give Williams its first lead since the first half.
Ramapo retook the lead on a pair of free throws by Moseley. Up 60-59, the Roadrunners put together a string of stops, including a shot clock violation, to hold the Ephs scoreless for over three minutes. Meanwhile, Bonacum shot 4-for-4 from the free throw line and assisted on a Stanek layup to clinch the game. Casey made a 3 at the buzzer, but the game finished 66-62 in the visitors' favor.
Ramapo had a 45-24 rebounding advantage and a 10-4 edge on the offensive glass. The Roadrunners shot 46.3 percent (25-of-54) and 42.9 percent (6-of-14) on 3s, while the Ephs shot 39.3 percent (22-of-56) and 38.7 percent (12-of-31) from long range.
The senior class of Greenman, Teal and co-captains Adam Kroot '18 and Chris Galvin '18 is the first to have played four years with App as head coach.
"I told them I have the best job in the country because they teach me as much as I teach them," App said. "The four seniors will probably teach me more than any graduating class just because I started here with them. We got to grow and learn and have some fun together. We shared every emotion together, every moment together."
This season, the seniors led Williams to its first NESCAC title since 2010. Last year, the Ephs made the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 2014.
"We feel our program wants to attract terrific student-athletes but also guys who embrace our history and look at our history as something fun – something that they can work toward leaving their mark on," App said. "There are going to be two banners up there that say 2018 with this team. That's a lot to be proud of.
"It's never easy when it ends. We're disappointed. We're hurting right now, but we've been talking all year: It's not what the banner says or what the win-loss numbers say. It's the fun little stuff that happens along the way, and I think the guys will see that. Some great stuff has happened these last four years."