Courtesy Amherst Sports Information
AMHERST, Mass. - The top-seeded Amherst men's basketball team improved to 23-7 all-time in NESCAC Championship play with an 86-66 quarterfinal win over Hamilton College at LeFrak Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
In search of a fifth league title, the Lord Jeffs have now won 10-straight, improving to 23-2 overall on the season. Amherst continues its postseason run on Saturday, Feb. 25 with a semifinal showdown against Bates College. Hamilton, making its first-ever appearance in the conference tournament, fell to 15-10 on the year.
Coming out firing, Amherst knocked down its first three attempts from downtown, building a 9-4 lead just 1:36 after the opening whistle. Weathering the storm, Hamilton answered with an 8-3 run, pulling within one at 13-12 with 15:45 on the clock.
Looking to give the Jeffs some breathing room, David Waller '12 (Tampa, Fla.) netted four-straight points before a pair of Matt Dean '14 free-throws brought the Continentals back within three.
Hoping to spark the Amherst offense, Allen Williamson '13 (Saugus, Mass.) brought the home crowd to its feet with a dunk just under the 13-minute mark, kick-starting a 10-4 run that gave the Lord Jeffs a nine-point cushion.
Battling back, Hamilton pared the lead to three on a Greg Newton '14 layup with 4:30 left in the half, but five-straight Aaron Toomey '14 (Greensboro, N.C.) points upped the Amherst lead to 35-27.
Ahead 39-31 at the intermission, Taylor Barrise '12 (Allendale, N.J.) opened up the second half scoring with a three-point play to extend the Amherst lead to 11.
Later up 10, Jeff Holmes '12 (Saunderstown, R.I.) collected an offensive rebound before kicking it to an open Barrise for a jumper from the left corner. Moments later, Barrise struck again, this time burying a long three from the right wing to stake the Jeffs to a 47-32 lead.
Holding onto a 14-point edge with under 10 to go, Toomey hit a jumper from the corner over the outstretched arms of a Hamilton defender before finding Williamson on a back-door alley-oop, pushing the lead to 18.
Bradley Gifford '15 momentarily quieted the Amherst crowd with a triple on the Continentals' ensuing possession, but Tim Prowitt '12 (Alrington, Va.) converted a three-point play before Williamson hit another jumper from the elbow to give the Jeffs their biggest lead of the afternoon at 70-50 with 6:53 remaining in regulation.
Finishing with a team-high 21 points and seven assists, Toomey went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, setting the program record for most free-throws made in a single season (149). Barrise added 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, connecting on 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, while Williamson shot 6-for-8, netting 12 points. Waller rounded out the list of Lord Jeffs in double-figures with 11.
Sullivan led all scorers with 27 points, adding 13 rebounds, while Dean had 10 points, knocking down three of his four shots.
Amherst shot 53.4 percent (31-for-58) from the field, including a 57.1 percent (16-for-28) clip in the second half, while holding Hamilton to a 41.7 percent shooting (10-for-24) over the final 20 minutes. The Jeffs, who forced 14 Continental turnovers, again won the battle on the boards, outrebounding Hamilton, 31-28.