Courtesy of Amherst College Sports Information
AMHERST, Mass. - Led by senior Allen Williamson, top seeded Amherst held on for a thrilling 74-73 triumph over second seeded Williams in the finals of the 2013 NESCAC Championship this afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium. The forward netted 17 points and also came up with a game-saving block in the waning moments of regulation.
Down one with five seconds remaining, Williams inbounded the ball to junior Taylor Epley, who drove toward the left baseline. Turning the corner, the guard tried to put up a floater, but Williamson flew in from the weak side, swatting the try to preserve the Amherst victory.
In what was a closely contested, see-saw affair, the lead changed hands 14 times, with the largest margin being Amherst’s seven-point cushion with 13:34 to go in the first half. The Jeffs also built a six-point lead with just 2:45 left in the game, but the Ephs quickly closed the gap, pulling within one down the stretch.
With the win, Amherst (25-2) captured its second consecutive conference title (sixth overall) and locked up the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Williams, which fell to 23-4 on the season, will hope for an at-large bid to the national tournament when the field is officially announced on Monday at 12:30 p.m.
Williamson went 7-of-13 from the field and also grabbed five boards. Finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds, senior center Peter Kaasila became the latest member of the 1,000-point club with a layup at the 15:20 mark of the second half. Scoring seven of his 10 points in the final 6:32, junior guard Aaron Toomey also tallied seven assists and five boards, while first year Connor Green netted 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Epley led all scorers with 22 points, connecting on nine of his 14 shots, while junior center Michael Mayer turned in a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Nate Robertson was the only other Eph in double figures, chipping in with 11 points and five helpers.
Scoring five of the Jeffs’ first nine points, junior Tom Killian staked the home team to a five-point cushion with a layup 4:26 after the opening whistle. Mayer netted the game’s next three points to trim the Williams deficit to two, but Williamson answered with five-straight, including a baseline alley-oop off a Toomey feed.
Coming right back, Robertson converted a three-point play the old fashioned way before senior James Klemm buried a triple to cut the margin to one. First year Ben Pollack momentarily stemmed the tide, banking in a turnaround at 11:54, but Williams senior Sean Hoffmann got free for a pair of baskets down low, capping off a 10-2 Eph run.
Behind 34-33 with 3:06 remaining in the first, Kaasila and Williamson notched consecutive buckets to put Amherst back on top before sophomore Daniel Wohl hit one of two from the charity stripe to pare the deficit to 37-35 at the intermission.
Deadlocked at 49-49 midway through the second half, Killian dialed one up from distance to put the Jeffs up three. Wohl responded with a three-pointer of his own on the other end before a pair of Mayer free throws once again pulled the visitors ahead.
Still down two with under seven minutes to play, Toomey sparked a 9-2 Jeff stretch, scoring seven points over a span of 2:28 to put Amherst up five. Draining a triple at 6:32, the point guard got the run started before later connecting on a jumper from the elbow and a layup on consecutive possessions to stake the Purple & White to a 66-61 edge.
Trailing 70-64 after a pair of free throws by junior David Kalema, Mayer connected down low before Epley drained a three to pull Williams back within one. Stepping to the line with 1:37 on the clock, Workman knocked down a pair of big free throws to extend the Jeff cushion to 72-69, but Mayer tipped in a Robertson miss on the other end to once again make it a one-point game.
Getting the ball back with under 30 to go and still down 72-71, Robertson tried to make a play in the lane, but Kaasila tied up the senior guard to help Amherst regain possession. Williamson pushed the lead to three with a pair of free throws, before Epley knifed into the paint for two.
Needing to foul, Williams sent Toomey to the line, but the Jeffs’ single-season record-holder for three-throw percentage uncharacteristically missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Ephs one final chance. Inbounding the ball after a foul, Williams once again looked to Epley in the game’s final moments, but Williamson denied the Ephs’ leading scorer a chance at a game winner to seal the Jeff victory.
Amherst shot 43.8 percent (28-for-64) from the floor and 31.8 percent (7-for-22) from behind the arc, while Williams knocked down 50 percent (29-for-58) of its field-goals and 34.8 percent (8-for-23) of its three-pointers. Holding a 38-30 rebounding edge, the Jeffs scored 16 points off of 11 Williams turnovers, while the Amherst bench outscored the Eph reserves, 19-6.