Jeffs Pull Away for 76-51 Win Over Farmington in Opener

Amherst rookie Peter Kaasila led the Jeffs in scoring
in his collegiate debut with 14 points.

AMHERST, MA – The 25th-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team opened the 2009-10 season this evening against U. Maine-Farmington in the first game of the 2009 Ken Wright ’52 Memorial Invitational Tournament at LeFrak Gymnasium. Despite being tied 30-30 at halftime, Amherst pulled away for a 76-51 season opening win.

After winning the opening tip, Amherst sophomore Taylor Barrise (Allendale, NJ) nailed a three for the Lord Jeff’s first points of the season. After seeing the Beavers score a pair of buckets, Barrise hit another three to open up an 8-4 lead for Amherst. The Beavers responded with an 11-4 run, taking at 15-12 lead with 11:43 to play on a jumper by DJ Garrish.

A three pointer by Garrish with 4:37 to play in the first half put the Beavers ahead 28-23, which proved to be the largest lead of the frame for either team. The Lord Jeffs finished the opening stanza on a 7-2 run, sending the two teams into the break tied 30-30. At the half, Barrise and Kurt Bennett (Placerville, CA) led Amherst with eight points apiece, while Eric Lelansky and Josh Tanguay each scored eight for the Beavers.

Amherst started the second half on fire, going on a 14-3 scoring run over the first 3:51 of play to open up a 44-33 lead. Maine-Farmington twice cut the lead below ten points, before a lay-up by Amherst rookie Peter Kaasila (Plaistow, NH) at the 11:32 mark put the Lord Jeffs up double-digits for good.

With 6:51 to play in the second half, Amherst’s lead swelled to 20 points on a jumper by junior tri-captain Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT). Down the stretch, Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 was able to get some valuable minutes for a slew of first-year players, with Lord Jeff Nation seeing it’s the debuts of seven rookies and the return of junior Billy Butler (Brooklyn, NY).

First-year Allen Williamson (Saugus, MA) brought the crowd to its feet with four minutes to play on a put-back dunk, before classmate Roshard Bryant (Bronx, NY) knocked down a pair of post jumpers and Butler drilled a triple on his only attempt of the night. With the strong finish by young players,  Amherst was able to dribble out the clock, cruising to a 76-51 season-opening win.

Kaasila led the Lord Jeffs with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting, while Meehan and senior tri-captain Steve Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) each found double-digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Tanguay led the Beavers with 14 points and 12 boards, with Eric Taylor adding 10 points as the only other Maine player in double-digits.  

With the win, the 1-0 Lord Jeffs advance to tomorrow’s Championship Game at 3 p.m., while the Beavers will play in the 1 p.m. Consolation Game. Amherst will await the winner of this evening’s Endicott-Ithaca College game, while Maine-Farmington will face the loser. With a win tomorrow, Amherst's Hixon will win the 600th game of his career.