Toomey Delivers Dagger in 80-78 Win Over Ephs

Contact: Justin Long

Players and fans swarmed Aaron Toomey '14 after he hit the
winning shot against Williams with only 1.9 seconds left.

AMHERST, Mass. – Aaron Toomey ’14 probably isn’t very popular in Williamstown, Mass.

For the second time this season, Toomey helped the Amherst College men’s basketball team edge archrival Williams in heartbreaking fashion by delivering the dagger in the final seconds of regulation. This time around the clinching points came with 1.9 seconds on the clock, as the Lord Jeffs held on for a thrilling 80-78 win over the Ephs in a packed LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst and Williams have played in countless classic games, but Friday night’s showdown—which featured 17 ties and 24 lead changes—was one of the most exciting in recent history. Toomey played the role of hero with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Taylor Barrise ’12 led all players with 21 points thanks to a 7-for-12 performance from behind the arc.

The sixth-ranked Lord Jeffs improved to 21-2 (9-0 NESCAC), while the Ephs dropped to 16-7 (4-5).

The Lord Jeffs set a program record with their 25th consecutive home victory and bumped their overall win streak to eight games. Amherst also secured the 2012 Little Three title, having posted a 3-1 record against Williams and Wesleyan during the regular season.

Neither team led by more than four points in the opening half until James Wang knocked down two free throws with 00:00 showing on the clock, as the Ephs carried a 41-36 lead into the locker room. The second half was much of the same until Amherst used an 8-0 run to pull ahead by eight (69-61) with 6:54 remaining in regulation.

Three-pointers by James Klemm and Wang on back-to-back Williams possessions got the visitors right back in the game, and a layup by Brian Emerson tied things up at 71-71 with 3:29 on the clock.

That’s when things got really fun.

With LeFrak Gymnasium as loud as it has been in recent memory, Amherst’s Willy Workman ’13 began a tug-of-war with a layup that put the Jeffs ahead, 73-71. Wang handed the lead right back to Williams with a layup and a 1-of-2 showing at the line, giving the Ephs a 74-73 edge with 1:13 to go.

Taylor Barrise '12 was 7-for-12 from long range.

Barrise’s seventh three-pointer of the night was his biggest, as it gave the Jeffs the lead for good at 76-74 with only 59.6 seconds remaining. Williams quickly got two points out of a timeout thanks to a pair of free throws from Nate Robertson, bringing the score to 76-76.

The teams then traded points in the paint, with Jeff Holmes ’12 scoring for Amherst before Emerson responded to tie the game at 78-78 with 13 ticks on the clock.

When the Jeffs and Ephs met earlier this season in Williamstown, Toomey knocked down a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation to hand Amherst a thrilling two-point win. This time, he waited until only 1.9 seconds remained before delivering the final blow.

Toomey drove to the lane and appeared as though he would once again attempt to draw a foul, but the sophomore point guard pulled up for a short jumper that hit nothing but the net and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Wang threw up a desperation heave at the buzzer but didn’t draw iron, causing the Lord Jeffs and their fans to storm the court.

Workman joined Toomey and Barrise in double figures with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists, as the three Lord Jeffs scored 66 points on 25-of-47 shooting (.532). Amherst shot 50 percent as a team and held a 38-29 rebounding advantage.

Williams had five players finish in double digits, with Wang scoring 17 and Klemm adding 15. Emerson and Taylor Epley each had 11, while Michael Mayer chipped in with 10. Mayer added 10 rebounds, while Robertson finished with seven points and six assists.

With the Ephs dropping into a tie for sixth in the standings, there is a chance Amherst and Williams could see each other in the opening round of the NESCAC Championship. Both teams will close their regular seasons Saturday at 4 p.m. as Amherst hosts second-ranked Middlebury and the Ephs travel to Trinity.