Courtesy Amherst Sports Information
AMHERST, Mass. – Second-seeded Amherst College opened up play in the 2009 NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship with an 80-66 win over seventh-seeded Trinity College Saturdayafternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass. The Lord Jeffs led for all but 17 seconds during the game and improved to 20-5 on the year. Trinity’s season comes to a close with a 9-15 record.
The meeting was the second of the season for the Lord Jeffs and Bantams, as Amherst handed Trinity a 65-48 loss in Hartford, Conn. Prior to this afternoon’s game, these two rivals had met four times in the NESCAC tournament, with Amherst winning all four meetings.
Amherst started the game with a pair of baskets by sophomore point guard Conor Meehan (Meriden, Conn.), while Trinity’s Paul Rowe (Brooklyn, N.Y.) hit a jumper on the Bantams’ first possession. With Amherst up 6-5, junior Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, Minn.) came off the bench after missing the last few weeks with an ankle injury.
With just over 14 minutes to play in the first half, Amherst first-year David Waller (Tampa, Fla.) blocked a shot off the backboard, and then beat his man down court for a score inside. At the 12:20 mark, Waller brought the Amherst fans to their feet with a drive down the left baseline for a two-handed slam in traffic.
Senior Marcus Bradley (Latham, N.Y.) continued to play well as the first half neared its midpoint, scoring his third bucket of the half on a mid-range jumper. Wheeler got into scoring mix on the next two Amherst possessions, scoring inside and then draining a three to put Amherst up 22-9. The buckets forced Trinity to use a timeout, as Amherst had gone on a 9-0 scoring run.
Coming out of the stoppage, Rowe scored again for Trinity, ending Amherst’s scoring spurt. After a pair of Amherst trips came up empty, Rowe scored again to leave Trinity trailing 22-13. Ian Fels (Miami, Fla.) drilled a three for Trinity from the left corner, before Rowe took a steal the distance for another score. The 9-0 scoring run for the Bantams forced Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 to call a timeout of his own.
After the Amherst lead shrunk to two points, Wheeler hit a jumper from the baseline to put the Jeffs up 24-20 with just over five minutes to play. Coming out of another Amherst timeout, Bradley knocked down a deep three to open up a 28-22 lead. After a pair of Aaron Westbrooks (Dublin, Ireland) free throws, Wheeler hit another three for Amherst.
With one minute to play in the half, Trinity closed the gap to 31-28 on a put-back score from Chris Applegate (High Point, N.C.). Rowe and Amherst’s DJ Carcieri (Pawtucket, R.I.) traded scores to end the half, with the Jeffs leading 33-30. At the break, Rowe led all players with 13 points, while Wheeler and Bradley paced the Jeffs with 11 and 10, respectively.
Amherst started the second half going inside to senior co-captain Mike Holsey (Potomac, Md.) for a nice post score. Holsey knocked down Amherst’s first two free throws of the game, putting Amherst up 37-32, before Westbrooks followed his own miss with a tip-in for Trinity.
After a pair of free throws from Applegate, Amherst senior co-captain Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, Calif.) caught fire with back-to-back triples to open up a 45-36 lead with 15:33 to play. Trinity used a timeout, before Rowe scored on a set play. Baskauskas responded for Amherst, hitting another three-ball from the right wing to open up a 50-38 lead.
Applegate responded for Trinity with a tough three-point play inside, cutting the deficit to single digits. Meehan went right back at the Bantams, driving down the lane en route to a three-point play of his own. The Bantams went on an 8-1 scoring run over the next few minutes, before Amherst rookie Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, R.I.) made a short left-handed hook shot.
Wheeler made a three from the left corner with 8:29 to play in the second half, opening back up a 60-49 lead for Amherst. Rowe answered for Trinity with a long-two, giving him 23 points in the game, before Holmes scored again inside. With 5:40 to play in the frame, Baskauskas hit his fourth three of the half to put Amherst back up 66-55.
After Trinity closed the gap to 70-60 on free throws, Amherst broke the Bantam full-court press with Baskauskas finding Holsey for a thunderous dunk. On the next Amherst trip, Baskauskas made a long two, opening up a 74-60 lead with 2:52 to play. Meehan found Baskaukas on a back-door cut for a nice reverse lay-up, before Luke MacDougall (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) scored for Trinity.
With 1:22 to play, and Amherst leading 77-64, the Bantams were forced to foul. Amherst made free throws downs the stretch, and held the Bantams off for an 80-66 victory. The Lord Jeffs advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals with the win, where they still wait for an opponent to be determined.
Baskauskas finished with 19 points to lead four Lord Jeffs in double-figures, with Meehan (17), Wheeler (14) and Bradley (11) joining him. Rowe was impressive for the Bantams with a game-high 30 points and six rebounds, while Westbrooks finished with 10 points.