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Champs! Jeffs Escape With 74-73 Win Over Williams
Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. - Allen Williamson ’13 came up with a game-saving block in the waning moments of regulation to help seal the Amherst men’s basketball team’s thrilling 74-73 victory over archrival Williams in the 2013 NESCAC Championship game.
Down one with five seconds remaining, Williams inbounded the ball to Taylor Epley ’14, who drove toward the left baseline. Turning the corner, the junior tried to put up a floater, but Williamson came over to help, swatting the try to preserve the Amherst victory.
In what was a closely contested, see-saw affair, the lead changed hands 14 times, with the largest margin being Amherst’s seven-point cushion with 13:34 to go in the first half. The Jeffs also built a six-point lead with just 2:45 left in the game, but the Ephs quickly closed the gap, pulling within one down the stretch.
With the win, Amherst (25-2) captured its second consecutive conference title (sixth overall) and locked up the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship. Williams, which fell to 23-4 on the season, will hope for an at-large bid to the national tournament when the field is officially announced on Monday, Feb. 25 at 12:30 p.m.
Knocking down seven of his 13 shot attempts, Williamson poured in a team-high 17 points, while grabbing five boards. Finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds, Peter Kaasila ’13 became the latest member of the 1,000-point club with a layup at the 15:20 mark of the second half. Scoring seven of his 10 points in the final 6:32, Toomey also tallied seven assists and five boards, while first-year Connor Green ’16 netted 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Epley led all scorers with 22 points, connecting on nine of his 14 shots, while Michael Mayer ’14 turned in a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Nate Robertson was the only other Eph in double figures, chipping in with 11 points and five helpers.
Scoring five of the Jeffs’ first nine points, Tom Killian ’14 staked the home team to a five-point cushion with a layup 4:26 after the opening whistle. Mayer netted the game’s next three points to trim the Williams deficit to two, but Williamson answered with five-straight, including a baseline alley-oop off a Toomey feed.
Coming right back, Robertson converted a three-point play the old fashioned way before James Klemm ’13 buried a triple to cut the margin to one. Ben Pollack ’16 momentarily stemmed the tide, banking in a turnaround at 11:54, but Williams’ Sean Hoffmann ’13 got free for a pair of baskets down low, capping off a 10-2 Eph run.
Up 37-35 at the intermission, but deadlocked at 49-49 midway through the second half, Killian dialed one up from distance to put the Jeffs up three. Wohl responded with a three-pointer of his own on the other end before a pair of Mayer free throws once again pulled the visitors ahead.
Still down two with under seven minutes to play, Toomey sparked a 9-2 Jeff stretch, scoring seven points over a span of 2:28 to put Amherst up five. Draining a triple at 6:32, the point guard got the run started before later connecting on a jumper from the elbow and a layup on consecutive possessions to stake the Purple & White to a 66-61 edge.
Trailing 70-64 after a pair of David Kalema ’14 free throws, Mayer connected down low before Epley drained a three to pull Williams back within one. Stepping to the line with 1:37 on the clock, Willy Workman ’13 knocked down a pair of big free throws to extend the Jeff cushion to 72-69, but Mayer tipped in a Robertson miss on the other end to once again make it a one-point game.
Getting the ball back with under 30 to go and still down 72-71, Robertson tried to make a play in the lane, but Kaasila tied up the senior guard to help Amherst regain possession. Williamson pushed the lead to three with a pair of free throws, before Epley knifed into the paint for two.
Needing to foul, Williams sent Toomey to the line, but the Jeffs’ single-season record-holder for three-throw percentage uncharacteristically missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Ephs one final chance. Inbounding the ball after a foul, Williams once again looked to Epley in the game’s final moments, but Williamson denied the Ephs’ leading scorer a chance at a game winner to seal the Jeff victory.
Amherst shot 43.8 percent (28-for-64) from the floor and 31.8 percent (7-for-22) from behind the arc, while Williams knocked down 50 percent (29-for-58) of its field-goals and 34.8 percent (8-for-23) of its three-pointers. Holding a 38-30 rebounding edge, the Jeffs scored 16 points off of 11 Williams turnovers, while the Amherst bench outscored the Eph reserves, 19-6.