Amherst Edges RIC in Sectional Semifinals; Jeffs to Face Williams

Aaron Toomey '14 led Amherst with 22 points against RIC.

Courtesy of Williams College

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Amherst College (25-3) used a barrage of three-pointers and clutch free throw shooting to hold off Rhode Island College, 78-74, in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship Sectional Semifinals. The Lord Jeffs will take on archrival Williams College Saturday at 7 p.m. in Williamstown, while the Anchormen end their season at 21-8.

After recording a double-double in each of last weekend’s tournament games, Amherst senior co-captain Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) continued to impress with 20 points, six boards and six assists against RIC. His 20th point of the evening marked the 1,000th of his career, making him the 24th Lord Jeff to reach the milestone.

RIC had battled back from a 13-point second-half deficit to take the lead with 3:34 left on a driving layup by Antone Gray that put the Anchormen on top, 65-64. RIC’s first lead since 14:44 of the first half did not last long, though, as Amherst’s Aaron Toomey ’14 (Greensboro, NC) hit a long three from in front of the Lord Jeff bench to put Amherst on top, 67-65, a lead they would not relinquish.

Toomey was 3-of-5 from long range in the second half and made seven of nine free throws to finish with 22 points. Also in double figures for the Jeffs were David Waller ’12 (Tampa, FL) and Willy Workman ’13 (Northampton, MA), who netted 13 and 10, respectively. RIC was led in scoring by senior guard Antone Gray (22), while Mike Akinrola added 18 and Mason Choice scored 17 for the Anchormen.

Amherst opened a 12-point lead (40-28) late in the first half on the third three-pointer by Meehan, before RIC responded with consecutive layups to cut the lead to eight at the half, 40-32. Amherst hit on 11 of 29 threes on the night and dominated the boards (50-28), with Waller pulling down a game-high nine rebounds. RIC connected on 46 percent of its field goal attempts but was only 3-of-18 from distance.

Meehan's 1,000th point came on a free throw with only six seconds remaining in the game. After Toomey buried a three to hand the lead back to Amherst with 2:50 to go, the Jeffs bumped their lead to eight (75-67) after a pair of Toomey free throws. The Anchormen pulled back within three with only 13 seconds on the clock, but Meehan went 1-for-2 at the line to make it a two-possession game and secure the milestone.

Saturday will mark the fourth time Amherst and Williams have clashed in the national tournament, with the Ephs winning in the 1997 second round (86-63), the 2003 quarterfinals (91-74) and the 2004 semifinals (86-61). On the other side of the bracket, Middlebury advanced and will take on Mount Saint Mary's in the Sectional Finals.