Amherst Wins Third Straight NESCAC Men's Basketball Title

Amherst Wins Third Straight NESCAC Men's Basketball Title

Courtesy of Amherst Sports Information

AMHERST, Mass. - Aaron Toomey recorded a triple-double and Tom Killian scored a career-high 31 points to lead the top-seeded Amherst men's basketball team to its third consecutive and seventh total NESCAC title with a 93-82 win over second-seeded Williams at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst (24-3) became the first team in NESCAC Championship history to win three consecutive titles. With seven total, the Jeffs increased their lead over Williams (23-4), who ranks second in the league with four. Amherst also won the previous two meetings against its archrival this season and has now won eight straight. The NCAA announces its 62-team championship field Monday, Mar. 3 at 12:30 p.m.

Toomey scored 12 points, dished out 12 assists and recorded 10 rebounds. The 12 assists tied both a NESCAC Championship record and a career-high. Killian poured in a career-high 31 points on 10-of-12 shooting. He was 4-of-6 from downtown, a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, and scored 17 of Amherst's first 19 points. He also grabbed seven boards. Two other Jeffs scored in double-figures with Connor Green posting 21 and David Kalema adding 15. Green was 5-of-9 from downtown.

Williams was led by forward Duncan Robinson. Robinson, who averages 16.5 points per game, dropped 26 Sunday on 10-of-15 shooting. Joining him in double-figures was Taylor Epley, Daniel Wohl and Michael Mayer with 16, 11 and 10, respectively. Mayer and Wohl led the team in rebounding with five boards each.

Amherst was terrific from behind-the-arc, going 15-of-30 (50%) while shooting 29-of-56 (51.8%) from the floor and 20-of-27 (74.1%) from the line. Williams was 6-of-11 (54.5%) from three-point range in the first half, but shot just 1-of-12 (8.3%) in the second. It went 30-of-63 (47.6%) for the game from the floor.

Sunday's championship game was extremely even from the opening tip as both teams exchanged baskets early and often. Williams' leading scorer Mayer scored the first bucket of the game with a dunk 16 seconds into play. On Amherst's following possession, Green evened the score to set the tone early in a first half that featured eight lead changes and eight ties.

Leading the way for Amherst in the opening minutes was Killian,who carried the team with 17 of the Jeffs' first 19 points. Tied at 10-10, Toomey found his classmate for an alley-oop that ignited the home crowd and gave Amherst the lead.

Minutes later, Toomey drilled one from downtown to put Amherst up 22-17. The largest margin of the game was quickly erased as Epley and Ryan Kilcullen tied the game at 23-23 following back-to-back three-pointers. At the 9:49 mark, Epley connected on the Ephs' third straight three-pointer to put the visitors ahead for the first time since the 15:03 mark.

Tied at 28-28 with 8:12 remaining in the half, Williams went on a 9-0 run led by a steal and dunk from Wohl. Amherst cut into the deficit over the next several minutes until a deep three-pointer from Green gave the home team a 39-37 lead.

In the closing seconds of the half, a three-pointer from Robinson put Williams up four, but Amherst answered nicely on the other end as Toomey found Connor Gach in the corner for a three-pointer six seconds before time expired. Williams held a 45-44 lead at the break. Killian finished the half with 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 3-of-4 from downtown and a perfect 3-of-3 from the line. Robinson led Williams with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, 3-of-4 from behind-the-arc and 1-of-1 from the charity stripe.

The intensity picked up in the second exactly where it left off. David Kalema got things started, hitting a three-pointer on the opening possession to put the home team ahead by two. Williams tied the game the next time down the court, but Kalema answered with a floater just outside the paint. 

Amherst grabbed a seven-point lead at the 10:10 mark, its largest of the game at that point, when Kalema connected on a pair of free-throws to give the home team a 71-64 advantage. Williams would cut into the margin and a dunk from Wohl put the visitors down two.

However, Killian responded on the team's next possession with a three-pointer to spark a 16-4 Amherst run capped off by a pair of free-throws from the senior. Less than two minutes later, Green went to the line and hit both attempts to give the Jeffs their largest lead of the game, up 91-76 with 1:13 remaining. The 16-4 run from 9:20 to 2:50 proved to be enough for Amherst, as the Jeffs cruised in the closing minutes for the 93-82 win.