NATIONAL CHAMPS! Jeffs Top UMHB, 87-70
Contact: Ben Badua
ATLANTA, Ga. - Leading from end-to-end, the second-ranked Amherst men’s basketball team captured the program’s second national championship with an 87-70 victory over Mary Hardin-Baylor in the NCAA Division III title game at Philips Arena.
Starting the game on a 10-0 run, the Jeffs never looked back, setting a new program benchmark for consecutive victories (24), while tying the 2006-07 national championship squad for the school’s best single-season record (30-2). Making its first ever trip to the DIII finals, UMHB clawed its way back from a 14-point deficit in the final 10:22 of the national semifinals against No. 1 St. Thomas, but could not close a similar second half gap against the Jeffs, finishing with a 27-6 mark.
Earning Most Outstanding Player honors, Allen Williamson ’13 paced Amherst with 18 points and six rebounds on 7-for-16 shooting. Averaging 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in the Final Four, Williamson closed the books on his college career with 842 points and 374 boards. Fellow seniors Willy Workman and Peter Kaasila finished with 14 and six points, respectively, with Workman also adding 10 rebounds to notch his team-high eighth double-double of the season.
One of the most versatile players to don the Purple & White, Workman finishes his career 18th on the program’s scoring charts (1,147), while also compiling 681 career rebounds, 321 assists, 161 steals and 124 blocks. Coming into his own this season and leading the NESCAC in field goal percentage (.635), Kaasila is 23rd all-time in scoring (1,035) while also grabbing 546 boards. Posting a 14-11 mark as first-years, the Class of 2013 will graduate with a 95-20 record, two NESCAC championships, and one of the program’s two national titles.
Opening up the scoring, Aaron Toomey ’14 buried a straight-away three-pointer before Williamson connected on a runner in the lane. Kaasila then put back a Toomey misfire before Williamson hit an open trey from the top of the key to put the Jeffs up 10-0.
Kitrick Bell ’14 cleaned up his own miss at 16:58 to put UMHB on the board before Thomas Orr ’13 found Cory Meals ’13 for a transition three that sliced the Amherst lead in half. After a pair of empty possessions, Workman got the Purple & White back on track with a triple from the right wing, but James Allen ’13 came right back down and converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way to make it 13-8.
Finding a cutting Ben Pollack ’16 with just over 12 minutes to go in the half, Toomey helped stretch the lead back to 10. The next time down the floor, Toomey again dished to an open Jeff, this time linking up with Connor Green ’16 for a corner three that gave Amherst a 25-12 edge.
Down 12 after another Kaasila put back, Allen dove into the paint for two before Orr drained a three-pointer that cut the margin to 33-26. After an Orr dunk made it a five-point affair, Williamson ended a 4:07 field goal drought with a layup off of a Workman miss. Knocking down the Jeffs’ sixth triple of the half, Tom Killian ’14 pushed the cushion back up to double digits.
Trailing 38-30 at the intermission, UMHB got several offensive rebounds on its first possession of the half before Brian Todd ’13 finally converted down low. Orr slid into the paint for two more to trim it to four, before Workman banked in a tough runner to make it 40-34. After a defensive stop, Workman again got free, hitting a trey from the wing to extend the lead to nine.
Todd answered with five straight on a layup and three-pointer before Toomey connected on just his second field goal, burying a big triple that upped the margin to 46-39. Driving the baseline, Williamson pushed it to nine before Orr converted 2-of-2 from the free throw line inside of the 15-minute mark.
Coming out of the 12-minute media timeout, Workman laid it in for two before David Kalema ’14 hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to make it 55-43. Up 62-51 with 8:09 left, Green drove baseline, drawing a foul and hitting the layup to set up a three-point play. Knocking down the ensuing free throw following a timeout, the first-year stretched the lead to 14.
With Todd cutting it to 65-55 on a layup at the 6:06 mark, Williamson scored five of the game’s next seven points to put Amherst back up 70-56. Knifing into the lane, Toomey got a floater to bounce in, putting the Purple & White up 15 before Williamson hit a pair from the line that made it 75-58 with just 3:00 on the clock.
One of four Jeffs to finish in double figures, Toomey ended up with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, despite battling some early foul trouble. The NABC Player of the Year, Toomey will enter next season ranked eighth on the school’s scoring list (1,416), standing just 292 points shy of tying Steve Zieja’s all-time mark. With 16 points in 16 minutes off the bench, Green paved the way for a solid second unit that outscored the Crusader reserves, 27-7.
Orr netted a game-high 24 points on 7-for-19 shooting, while grabbing 11 rebounds to lead UMHB. Todd added 17 points and five boards, while Allen finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
Shooting 40.8 percent (29-for-71) for the game, Amherst turned in another solid defensive effort, limiting the Crusaders to 36.2 percent (25-for-69) from the field and a 31.3 percent (5-for-16) clip from long distance. Holding a slim 48-47 rebounding edge, Amherst got outscored in the paint (40-36), but never allowed the UMHB transition game to get going, committing just six turnovers - its second lowest total of the season.
One of the winningest coaches in NCAA Division III, head coach David Hixon ’75 notched his 693rd career victory and will enter next season just seven shy of 700.