HADLEY, Mass. –Top seeded Amherst will continue its quest for a sixth conference crown when it hosts the remaining rounds of the 2013 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship this weekend at LeFrak Gymnasium. Tournament play will continue with a pair of semifinals on Saturday. The opening half of the doubleheader will feature Amherst and fourth seeded Tufts at 1:00 p.m. That game will be followed by a matchup between second seeded Williams and third seeded Middlebury at 3:00 p.m. Semifinal winners will square off in the conference finals on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. At stake will be an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Tickets for each day will be $5 for adults and $2 for students. Children under 12 years of age will be admitted free of charge. Streaming video will be available for all three games courtesy of Amherst. Live statistics will also be available.
With the top seed in this year’s championship at stake, Amherst (23-2, 10-0 NESCAC) closed out the regular season with a dramatic 104-101 triple overtime triumph at Middlebury last Tuesday. In the process, the Lord Jeffs completed an unbeaten regular season in league play for the second straight year and fourth time in the last 10 years. No strangers to postseason success, Amherst picked up its fifth league title with a thrilling 71-69 victory over Middlebury last February. The program also took home top honors in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Junior Aaron Toomey knocked down a tournament record eight three-pointers in Amherst’s 83-52 triumph over eighth seeded Bates on Saturday. The guard went 9-of-16 from the floor en route to 28 points, while also adding seven rebounds and six assists. Toomey has set the tone for Amherst’s high-powered offense, posting 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game. His 75 three-pointers are good for tops in the league, and he has also chipped in with 35 steals. As a team, the Lord Jeffs have piled up a league-best 84.4 points per game this season. Senior forward Willy Workman has recorded 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to go with 42 blocked shots and 36 steals. Meanwhile, classmate Peter Kaasila has added 13.4 points and 6.2 boards from the post.
Tufts (17-8, 7-3 NESCAC) used an 82-71 victory over fifth seeded Bowdoin to advance past the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2006. Four starters reached double digits in the scoring column for the Jumbos, who have won 11 of their last 12 games. Sophomore guard Ben Ferris led the way with 24 points, while senior forward Scott Anderson added 20. Both players collected nine boards in the contest. Ferris leads the Jumbos in scoring (13.1) rebounding (6.6) and steals (34). He has also drained 40 shots from beyond the arc and dished out 57 assists. Anderson has also been effective, averaging 13.0 points and 5.6 boards. Tufts leads the league in assists (407), free throw percentage (75.2%) and three-point field goal percentage (39.9%). Junior guard Oliver Cohen has accounted for 97 assists, while first year center Tom Palleschi has collected 45 blocked shots.
Amherst will enter the weekend riding a 17 game winning streak. Over that span, the Lord Jeffs have outscored their opponents by nearly 16 points per game. Included in the run was a 100-89 victory over the Jumbos on February 2. Tufts made its lone appearance in the conference finals in 2006, falling in overtime to Amherst.
Saturday’s second semifinal will feature second seeded Williams (22-3, 9-1 NESCAC) and third seeded Middlebury (22-2, 8-2 NESCAC). The Ephs got past the first round with an 88-79 victory over seventh seeded Bates. Senior guard James Klemm led all scorers with 20 points, while junior center Michael Mayer recorded a double-double on 14 points and 10 boards. Junior forward Taylor Epley has been the team’s go-to player on the offensive end, scoring 18.1 points per game behind 63 three-pointers. Mayer has averaged 17.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. Meanwhile, senior guard Nate Robertson leads the team with 112 assists and the conference with 49 steals. Williams will be looking for its fifth NESCAC title and first since 2010. The Ephs have dropped just three contests this season, including a 65-48 setback to Amherst earlier this month. They lead the league in field goal percentage (50.4%) and field goal percentage defense (37.4%).
Middlebury will be looking for its fifth straight trip to the title game after its 61-49 win over sixth seeded Wesleyan on Saturday. Junior guard Joey Kizel came up with 20 points in the game, while senior Jake Wolfin, Peter Lynch and Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) netted 12 apiece. Lynch has converted a league-best 64.7% of his shots this season en route to 15.1 points per game. The Panthers have also received a boost from Kizel, who has averaged 13.7 points. Thompson has netted 51 treys en route to 12.8 points per game, and Wolfin has dished out 112 assists. Middlebury’s two losses have come by a combined four points, including a 64-63 setback at Williams on January 26.
In five previous tournament meetings between the programs, Middlebury owns a 3-2 advantage. The Panthers came out on top in last year’s quarterfinals and also prevailed 63-54 in the 2011 finals. In the process, they avenged a 64-56 loss to the Ephs in the 2010 title game. Middlebury claimed its first conference championship in 2009. Both teams have outscored their opponents by 15.4 points per game this season.
Results for the NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.