Clutch Free Throws Help Jeffs Hang on at Williams

Pete Kaasila '13 had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Contact: Justin Long

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Aaron Toomey ’14 knocked down a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation to help the seventh-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team hold on for a 67-65 win over 13th-ranked Williams College Wednesday evening in Chandler Gym.

Williams trailed by as many as 14 in the second half but battled all the way back to tie the game at 65-65 with 14 seconds to play. The Jeffs got the rebound on a missed Williams free throw, called timeout and gave the ball to Toomey, who handed the lead back to Amherst. The Ephs had one last chance for the win, but their three-point heave at the buzzer fell short.

Amherst (16-2) committed only two turnovers in the game and shot 18-for-23 at the line, while the Ephs (15-4) hit 17 of their 26 free throws. A key for the Lord Jeffs came when they held Williams to only 10 points during an 11:25 stretch that spanned the first and second halves.

Toomey and Pete Kaasila ’13 each finished with 16 points for Amherst and David Waller ’12 added 13, but the Jeffs shot only 33.3 percent overall and 19.2 percent from behind the arc. The Ephs hit 44.0 percent of their shots but also struggled from long range (4-for-20).

Senior captain Taylor Barrise got things going by hitting a three-pointer on Amherst’s first possession of the game. The visitors would pull ahead for a 15-7 lead after two buckets by Kaasila in the paint, a three-point play by Waller and a jumper from downtown by Willy Workman ’13, as the Lord Jeffs made six of their first 10 shots.

Williams pushed back and took advantage of seven consecutive Amherst misses. James Wang ’12 cut the Ephs’ deficit to 15-14 and soon handed his team its first lead of the game, bringing the score to 20-18 in favor of the hosts with 10:42 remaining.

After James Klemm ’13 buried a three for the Ephs, Workman knocked down a turnaround jumper that ended a field goal drought of 5:35 for Amherst. Allen Williamson ’13 followed with a layup on a nice drive to the basket, as the Jeffs quickly got back in the game and cut their deficit to 23-22.

Aaron Toomey ’14 converted a three-point play with 7:51 to go, and the Jeffs would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. Back-to-back buckets by Jeff Holmes ’12 capped off an 11-0 Amherst run that made it a 29-23 contest, but the Ephs quickly made it a one-point game when Klemm knocked down a free throw after hitting a tough layup.

Aaron Toomey '14 clinched the win by knocking
down two free throws in the final seconds.

After a Workman steal led to a Toomey three at the other end, Kaasila put back his own miss and Waller buried a triple with under a minute to play. Amherst held Williams to only three points in the final 5:20, including a scoreless stretch of 4:13, as Taylor Epley scored the Ephs’ final three points of the period to bring the halftime score to 39-31.

Waller carried Amherst’s momentum into the second half by following a tough layup with a three-pointer from the corner, as the Jeffs quickly took a 44-31 lead. After Hayden Rooke-Ley narrowed Amherst’s lead to single digits, Brian Emerson ’12 brought the home crowd back to life by making an acrobatic layup while getting fouled, with his ensuing free throw making it a 53-46 game.

Both teams hit a major dry spell, but the Ephs slowly chipped away when Amherst went 5:06 without scoring. Chandler Gym truly started to resemble a classic Amherst-Williams atmosphere when Emerson threw down the only dunk of the night, bringing the score to 57-54 with under five minutes to play.

The Ephs cut their deficit to two at 59-57, 61-59 and 63-61, and they would finally make it a one-point game when Klemm drilled a straightaway three with his defender on the ground and less than a minute to play.

Williams put itself in a position to hold on for the last shot by grabbing a defensive rebound and calling a timeout with 26.9 seconds to play. Epley got fouled with 14 seconds on the clock but would hit only one of his two free throws, putting Amherst back in control after Barrise came up with the rebound.

Out of a timeout, Amherst put the ball in Toomey’s hands and allowed him to break the 65-65 tie with two free throws in the final seconds. Wang had a clean look at the buzzer but was well behind the three-point line, as his attempt came up short and sealed the Lord Jeff victory.

Kaasila was a bright spot during a poor shooting night for Amherst, as the junior center was 7-for-10 from the floor and knocked down both of his free throw attempts. Waller also stood out by going 5-for-9 overall and 2-for-3 from three-point range.

Klemm led Williams with 13 points, while Michael Mayer had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Lord Jeffs will resume their conference schedule this Saturday when they travel to Trinity College for a 4 p.m. game.