Athletics

Jeffs Headed to Salem

Contact: Ben Badua

SALEM, Va. - The second-ranked Amherst men’s basketball team resumes its quest for a national championship this weekend with an Elite 8 match-up against Cabrini College in Salem, Va.

Usually home to the men’s Division III Final Four, the Salem Civic Center will host this year’s quarterfinals and semifinals to allow for the national championship game to be played in Atlanta, Ga. on Sunday, Apr. 7 alongside the DI and DII title tilts in celebration of the 75th anniversary of March Madness.

No. 7 Middlebury takes on No. 3 North Central (Ill.) in one of the night’s other quarterfinals, with the winner squaring off with the victor of Amherst/Cabrini on Saturday, Mar. 23 at 8:30 p.m. On the other side of the bracket, No. 8 Williams faces top-ranked St. Thomas, while Mary-Hardin Baylor meets No. 11 St. Mary’s (Md.)

Quarterfinals, Friday, Mar. 22 – Salem Civic Center – Salem, Va.
St. Thomas (29-1) vs. Williams (26-4) – 12 p.m.
Mary Hardin-Baylor (25-5) vs. St. Mary’s (27-3) – 2:30 p.m.
Amherst (27-2) vs. Cabrini (25-5) – 5:30 p.m.
Middlebury (25-3) vs. North Central (27-3) – 8 p.m.

Semifinals, Saturday, Mar. 23 – Salem Civic Center – Salem, Va.
St. Thomas/Williams vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor/St. Mary’s – 6 p.m.
Middlebury/North Central vs. Amherst/Cabrini – 8:30 p.m.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets are available online through TicketMaster or by calling Hank Luton and the Salem Civic Center box office at (540) 375-3004.

$15 Single-session adult
$7.50 Single-session student/youth/senior
$25 All-session adult
$12.50 All-session student/youth/senior
$5 Single-session group
Free Under two

Advance Sale - All session ticket packages are only available prior to Friday, Mar. 22.

LIVE COVERAGE: Each of this weekend's games will feature live stats and a free webcast. Links will be posted when made available.

BEHIND THE SCENES: For additional coverage be sure to check out our NCAA Tournament blog as Amherst Sports Information gives you an inside look with photos, videos, interviews and more live from Salem.

SCOUTING NO. 2 AMHERST
(27-2, 10-0 NESCAC)

Opening the year 5-0, Amherst dropped two of three games during the first week of December to fall to 6-2 on the season. Regrouping, the Jeffs have not lost since, ripping off 21-straight and now standing just two wins shy of tying a program record.

Locking up a second consecutive 10-0 NESCAC regular season with hard-fought wins at Williams (65-48) and Middlebury (104-101, 3ot), Amherst opened conference tournament play with a resounding 83-52 victory over Colby. Dispatching of Tufts (80-64) in the semifinals, the Purple & White repeated as league champions (six overall) thanks to a thrilling triumph over Williams, 74-73.

Earning one of two first round byes, a rejuvenated Jeff squad made quick work of second round opponent SUNY Plattsburgh (89-72) before recording another lopsided victory the following weekend against Randolph-Macon (93-76). Here’s a closer look at Amherst’s season behind the numbers:

3 Much of Amherst’s success this season can be traced back to its three seniors, Willy Workman ’13, Peter Kaasila ’13 and Allen Williamson ’13, who have the Jeffs just three wins away from a national championship. Of the tri-captains, Workman and Kaasila joined junior Aaron Toomey as the three players on Amherst’s roster to go over the 1,000-point plateau in 2012-13. The latter garnered NESCAC Player of the Year along with d3hoops.com and NABC Regional Player of the Year accolades after earning a spot on the conference honor roll on three occasions. In one of the Jeffs’ most memorable games, Toomey (one of three Amherst d3hoops.com all-region honorees) knocked down a game winning three-pointer in the third overtime against what was the No. 3 team in the country at the time, Middlebury. For his efforts in guiding Amherst to another undefeated league ledger, head coach David Hixon ’75 picked up his third NESCAC Coach of the Year honor before later nabbing NABC Regional Coach of the Year accolades.

21 Opening the year with five straight wins, Amherst limped through a 1-2 stretch in early December, dropping games to regional rivals Springfield and Babson. Since then the Jeffs have righted the ship, reeling off 21 W’s in-a-row. With a pair of victories in Salem, Amherst would tie the program record for consecutive wins (23) set in 2006-07.

8 Amherst is making its eighth trip to the Elite 8 and it’s first since falling to Williams in the 2011 national quarterfinal, 77-71. Prior to their setback to the Ephs, the Jeffs had advanced to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08 and are 4-3 all-time in the quarterfinals. In its eight previous games in Salem, Va., Amherst is 3-5, winning the national championship in 2007 and finishing as the runner-up in 2008.  

10 Closing in on the 700-win mark, head coach David Hixon ’75 enters this weekend’s play with 690 career victories, just 10 shy of reaching the career benchmark. The conference and NABC Northeast District Coach of the Year, Hixon’s .732 winning percentage is among the highest in NCAA history, with his 690 victories ranking fourth on the list of active Division III coaches. Since 2000, Amherst has been the second winningest team in DIII (319-62, .837).

91 Torching its first two tournament opponents, Amherst is averaging 91.0 points per game during NCAA play. The NESCAC’s highest scoring team (84.3 ppg) the Jeffs top the league in three-point field goal percentage (.398), while ranking second in field goal percentage (.495). Balance has been the key to the Amherst attack all season with four players averaging double figures. Led by Toomey’s 25, five different players scored at least 10 points in a 93-76 drubbing of Randolph-Macon in the Sweet 16.

50 Using a first round bye and two week layoff to get healthy, Amherst has been a model of efficiency during the NCAA Tournament, shooting over 50 percent from both the floor and three-point range. Against Plattsburgh and Randolph-Macon, the Jeffs connected on 65-of-128 (50.8) shot attempts and 24-of-48 (50.0) three-pointers. Up by as much as 28 in the first half against RMC, Amherst shot a blistering 64.7 percent (22-for-34) from the field and 66.7 percent (10-for-15) from long distance over the first 20 minutes. The Jeffs did nearly as well in the first half against Plattsburgh the week prior, holding a lead as large as 26, while shooting almost 56 percent from the floor.

15.8 Averaging a shade over 10 points and four rebounds during the regular season, Williamson has stepped it up during the playoffs, averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 boards, while shooting nearly 58 percent from the field. Averaging 16.0 points in three NESCAC Tournament games, he notably scored 17 points in the championship against Williams while also recording the game saving block at the end of regulation. Every bit as good in the Jeffs’ first two NCAA games, Williamson averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 boards on 68.4 percent shooting in wins over Plattsburgh and Randolph-Macon.

64.4 Enjoying a stellar senior season, Kaasila leads the NESCAC in field goal percentage, connecting on 64.4 percent of his attempts. Also averaging personal bests in points (13.3) and rebounds (6.2) per game, Kaasila scored a career-high 29 points in the regular season finale against Middlebury (which clinched a regular season title), while pulling down a personal record 15 rebounds against Bates on Feb. 1.

30 In his signature game of 2012-13, Workman poured in a career-high 30 points in a thrilling 104-101 triple overtime thriller at then-No. 3 Middlebury. Also tying a career-best with 13 rebounds, no points were bigger than those scored by Workman at the end of the second overtime. With Amherst down 91-88 and just seconds remaining, Workman hit the first of two free throws. Intentionally missing the second, he corralled the rebound and put back the tying basket at the horn to give the Jeffs new life, while earning himself a spot on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays (No. 10 - Feb. 13).

25 Seeing a slight drop in his season averages during the NESCAC Tournament, Toomey has regained the form that earned him NESCAC Player of the Year along with d3hoops.com and NABC Northeast Player of the Year accolades. Scoring 25 points in each of Amherst’s wins over Plattsburgh and Randolph-Macon, Toomey shot 51.9 percent (14-for-27) from the floor and 50.0 percent (9-for-18) from three-point range. Currently fourth in the NESCAC in scoring (17.6 ppg), Toomey has also done a stellar job facilitating the Jeff offense, sitting second in the league in assists (5.1).

26 Putting together a second straight 13-0 NESCAC slate (regular season & postseason), Amherst is now 26-0 against league opponents over the last two seasons. Repeating as NESCAC champions, the Jeffs have now captured a conference best six titles and have the potential of meeting league rivals Middlebury and Williams in the Final Four and championship game, respectively.

SCOUTING CABRINI (25-5, 16-2 CSAC)

Winners of 14-straight, the Cavaliers will make just their second appearance in the national quarterfinals. Defeating Keystone (90-74) in the CSAC championship game, Cabrini has played some of its best basketball of late, stringing together three consecutive wins over top-25 opponents.

Beginning their tournament run with an 80-70 victory over No. 16 Hampden-Sydney, Cabrini edged out No. 21 Ohio Wesleyan (84-81) in the second round before defeating No. 20 Wooster (70-63) in last weekend’s Sweet 16.

Four different players are averaging double figures for the CSAC’s second-highest scoring offense (82.4 ppg), as the Cavaliers rank second in the league in field goal percentage (.492) and third in three-point shooting (.365). Leading the charge is sophomore Aaron Walton-Moss, who recently picked up NABC All-Mid-Atlantic first team honors to go along with d3hoops.com and CSAC first team accolades.

Recording his fifth straight double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds against Wooster, he helped spark a 16-0 first half run that turned a 14-5 deficit into a 40-39 lead at the break. Fourth in the conference in scoring (14.9 ppg) and second in rebounding (9.0), he also tops the league in assists (5.1), steals (2.1) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1), all while shooting 52.0 percent from the floor.

Backcourt mate Jeremy Knowles ’13, who sits third on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) tallied 10 points and five rebounds against the Fighting Scots, while fellow senior guard AJ Williams started 28 of his 30 appearances, averaging 11.1 ppg and 2.07 steals - good for second in the CSAC.

A good shooter, forward Fran Rafferty ’14 is connecting on 50.9 percent of his field goal attempts, while hitting 69-of-138 three-pointers (.500). Second on the team in scoring (13.7), he is averaging 13.3 points per game during the NCAA Tournament, while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor. The conference leader in field goal percentage (.679), Jon Miller ’14 provides the Cavaliers with an added presence inside, scoring 6.1 points per outing, while Tim McDaniels ’14 hit on 6-of-11 shots against Wooster to finish with 17 points.

SCOUTING NO. 7 MIDDLEBURY (25-3, 8-2 NESCAC)

Earning an at-large berth to its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament, the Panthers advanced to their second Elite 8 in three seasons by virtue of a thrilling 73-72 win over Ithaca last Saturday. Outlasting Curry (68-66) in the first round, Middlebury tripped up Cortland (67-63) before winning another close one with the Bombers.

Getting fouled with 1.8 seconds left, junior guard Joey Kizel ’14 calmly stepped to the line and drained 2-of-2 to put the Panthers ahead for good, finishing with 13 points and five assists. On the season, the guard sits second on the squad in scoring (14.2 ppg), shooting nearly 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range.

Fellow guards Nolan Thompson ’13 and Jake Wolfin ’13 were also instrumental in the victory over Ithaca, with the duo each hitting six threes en route to a game-high 20 points. The NESCAC’s Defensive Player of the Year and a NABC Northeast District second team selection, Thompson joined Middlebury’s 1,000-point club earlier this season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and 43.9 percent from behind the arc. A 1,000-point scorer in his own right, Wolfin also does a solid job distributing, sitting third in the NESCAC in assists (5.0 apg), while already owning the program record for career helpers (549).

A strong presence on the low block, Peter Lynch ’13 leads the team in scoring (15.0 ppg), while sitting second in the conference in field goal percentage (62.9). James Jensen ’14 and Hunter Merryman ’15 give Middlebury a boost off the bench, combining to average nearly 16 points per game, with Merryman shooting almost 50 percent from the floor and over 43 percent from long distance.

SCOUTING NO. 3 NORTH CENTRAL (27-3, 11-3 CCIW)

Suffering consecutive losses in late January, the Cardinals have reeled off 11-consecutive wins to punch the program’s first-ever ticket to the national quarterfinal. Upending Augustana (70-63) in the CCIW championship game, North Central cruised to a 66-50 victory over Centre before squeaking out a 64-60 triumph over No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater. Avenging one of their three losses on the year, the Cardinals booked a trip to Salem with an 83-73 victory over CCIW rival No. 10 Illinois-Wesleyan.

Finishing with 13 points and seven assists against the Titans, NABC All-Midwest Player of the Year Derek Raridon ’13 continued to show the form that also earned him CCIW Player of the Year and d3hoops.com first team all-region honors. Averaging 14.6 ppg, the guard-forward is shooting over 51 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three. The school’s all-time recordholder for games played (109), he currently also sits second on the program charts in scoring (1,678) and assists (245).

Capturing his third straight NABC first team All-Midwest citation, Landon Gamble ’14 pieced together another strong season, averaging 14.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg, while scoring nine on 4-for-5 shooting against Illinois Wesleyan. CCIW third team selections Vince Kmiec ’14 and Aaron Tiknis ’13 have been solid contributors, with Kmiec averaging over 10 points and four rebounds per contest, while Tiknis netted 11 against the Titans.

Also proving capable of producing on the offensive end, forward Jack Burchett ’15 hit 8-of-10 shot attempts against Illinois Wesleyan to finish with a team-high 18 points, while Pat Rourke ’14 had 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a 7-for-9 showing at the free throw line.

For more information about this weekend’s games, use the links provided below.

2013 NCAA DIVISION III MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Salem, Va. * Salem Civic Center

National Quarterfinals - Friday, Mar. 22
St. Thomas (29-1) vs. Williams (26-4) – 12 p.m.
Mary Hardin-Baylor (25-5) vs. St. Mary’s (27-3) – 2:30 p.m.
Amherst (27-2) vs. Cabrini (25-5) – 5:30 p.m.
Middlebury (25-3) vs. North Central (27-3) – 8 p.m.

National Semifinals - Saturday, Mar. 23
St. Thomas/Williams vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor/St. Mary’s – 6 p.m.
Middlebury/North Central vs. Amherst/Cabrini – 8:30 p.m.

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

*** Check out photos, videos, interviews and more in our FINAL FOUR BLOG ***
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NCAA Championship Website * Salem Civic Center Website

Live Webcasting * Live Statistics (Coming Soon)

Cabrini Website * Amherst Website * Middlebury Website * North Central Website