Athletics

Jeffs Pull Away from Tufts in Semifinals, 80-64

Contact: Ben Badua

KaasilaTUFTS2

AMHERST, Mass. - Peter Kaasila ’13 scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to lead the top-seeded Amherst College men’s basketball team to an 80-64 victory over Tufts University in the NESCAC semifinals Saturday at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Extending their win streak to 18, the Jeffs advanced to their 10th conference championship game and will face second-seeded Williams, which defeated third-seeded Middlebury, 87-80 in overtime, in the day’s second semifinal.

Trailing 35-32 at the half, Amherst outscored Tufts 48-29 over the final 20 minutes, shooting a blistering 65.5 percent (19-for-29) from the floor in the second, while holding the Jumbos to a 26.5 percent clip (9-for-34). After 26 points on 11-for-13 shooting during the regular season matchup, Kaasila was every bit as good Saturday, hitting 10 of his 12 attempts, while pulling down eight rebounds.

Allen Williamson ’13 added 19 points for Amherst while Willy Workman ’13 turned in another solid all-around performance with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Tom Killian ’14 also reached double figures with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Tom Palleschi ’16 paced Tufts with 19 points and six boards, while Ben Ferris ’15 had 18 points, connecting on 6-of-12 from the field. Kwame Firempong ’14 chipped in with nine points and four rebounds.

Getting off to a fast start, Tufts took an 8-2 lead on a Firempong triple. Williamson responded with a jumper before Killian threw down an alley-oop and drew a foul off a Workman feed, trimming the deficit to one with the ensuing free throw. Down 13-11 after a Matt Lanchantin ’13 layup, Killian and Williamson combined for the next four points to give the Jeffs their first lead of the afternoon.

Breaking a deadlock with just under five to go, Workman netted four straight points to put Amherst up 26-22. Battling back, Tufts responded with an 11-4 run to close out the half, taking a 35-32 advantage into the locker room thanks to an Oliver Cohen ’14 bucket with 50 seconds to go.

Trailing by five after a Palleschi layup opened up the second half scoring, Amherst rattled off six unanswered, retaking the lead on a Toomey jumper. Trailing 40-38, Workman found Kassila on the low block on three consecutive possessions as the Jeffs quickly built a 44-40 cushion. Holding onto a 49-46 edge with just over 13 to play, David Kalema ’14 drained a runner in the lane and drew a foul, completing a three-point play that put the Jeffs up six.

Minutes later, Kalema again drove the lane for two, converting another three-point play that staked the Purple & White to their first double-digit margin. Connor Green ’16 kept things going with a layup that made it 59-47 at 9:49 before Palleschi momentarily stemmed the tide with a three-point play of his own.

Still ahead by nine after a pair of Palleschi free throws inside of the eight minute mark, Amherst pieced together a 15-4 run over a span of 4:43 to blow the game open. Kaasila got things started with a layup and a jumper from the left elbow before later notching another bucket that pushed the lead to 67-54.

Kalema then hit one of two from the charity stripe before Toomey drained a triple to extend the margin to 17. Palleschi ended a nearly five minute Tufts field-goal drought with a basket at 4:35, but four Williamson free throws gave Amherst its biggest lead of the afternoon at 76-56.

Led by Kaasila, Amherst dominated play in the paint, holding a 46-28 scoring advantage down low while narrowly edging out the Jumbos on the boards, 37-35.

BOX SCORE

2013 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship

Quarterfinals – Saturday, Feb. 16
No. 1 Amherst 83, No. 8 Colby 52
No. 2 Williams 88, No. 7 Bates 79
No. 3 Middlebury 61, No. 6 Wesleyan 49
No. 4 Tufts 82, No. 5 Bowdoin 71
 
Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 23
No. 1 Amherst 80, No. 4 Tufts 64
No. 2 Williams 87, No. 3 Middlebury 80 (OT)
 
Championship – Sunday, Feb. 24
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 2 Williams, 12 p.m.