Jeffs Drop Final Four Game to Williams, 98-69
Contact: Ben Badua
SALEM, Va. - The seventh-ranked Amherst men’s basketball team saw its quest for a second-consecutive NCAA Championship come to an end Friday night with a 98-69 national semifinal loss to archrival Williams College at the Salem Civic Center.
Snapping a eight-game losing skid to the Jeffs (27-4), Williams improved to 28-4 on the season and advances to face the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Saturday’s title game slated for 5:30 p.m. Having lost the three previous meetings to Amherst this season, the Ephs are now 5-0 all-time against the Jeffs in NCAA Tournament play, while holding a 118-96 edge in the historic rivalry that dates back to 1901.
Connor Green ’16 paced the Purple & White offensively, netting a team-high 26 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Tom Killian ’14 added 20 points, while David Kalema ’14 and David George ’17 each netted nine points, with George also pulling down nine boards.
Getting the Ephs off to a fast start, Michael Mayer ’14 netted four of the game’s first six points. Tracking down a Green misfire, George put the Jeffs on the board with a layup at 18:05. Tied at 6-6, Duncan Robinson ’17 buried a triple to put the Ephs back on top, but Kalema drained a three of his own from the right wing the next time down the floor to pull Amherst level.
With the Jeffs taking their first lead on a Killian layup at 14:39, Williams once again found the range from long distance as Taylor Epley ’14 and Mike Greenman ’17 connected on consecutive treys to make it 15-11. Answering with five-straight points, Amherst regained the edge thanks to a Killian three-pointer and a pair of Kalema free throws, but the Ephs would score eight of the game’s next 10, building a 23-18 margin on a Robinson bucket midway through the period.
Up just one after a pair of Killian and Green baskets, Williams rattled off a 16-5 run over a span of 3:37. The Ephs knocked down four triples during the stretch, which included a Robinson trey with 4:30 to go in the half that made it 39-27. Ahead by 13 at the intermission, Williams shot 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field and 50.0 percent (7-of-14) from behind the arc, while the Jeffs were just 38.2 percent (13-of-34) from the floor and 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from three.
Picking up where they left off in the first, Robinson hit a three from the top of the key before Greenman pulled up for a transition two. An Epley triple followed by a Greenman trey suddenly had Williams up 56-32. Kalema converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way at 17:24 to give the Purple & White its first points of the half.
Trailing 64-40 after a pair of Epley free throws, Amherst pieced together a 7-2 spurt. George got things started with consecutive layups before a Killian three cut the deficit to 66-47. Still holding onto a 19-point advantage following an Aaron Toomey ’14 triple at 7:53, Williams mounted another 10-2 run, pushing its lead to 27 with just 5:11 on the clock.
Robinson led all scorers with 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting, including a 4-of-6 showing from three. Mayer had 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Epley finished with 18 points. Greenman and Daniel Wohl ’15 chipped in with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Shooting a blistering 63.3 percent (38-of-60) for the game, the Ephs missed just nine shots in the final 20 minutes, hitting 70.0 percent of its attempts (21-of-30).
Tonight’s game marks the last for Amherst’s Class of 2014, which helped guide the Jeffs to three-consecutive NESCAC titles and a pair of NCAA Final Four appearances which included the program’s second national championship last season. Together, Toomey, Killian, Kalema and Connor Gach helped lead the Jeffs to a 108-13 (.901) overall record and a 36-3 league ledger, going 64-1 at LeFrak Gymnasium during that span.
The program’s all-time leading scorer, Toomey finishes his decorated career with 2,033 points. Also the team’s record holder in career free throws (606) and three-pointers (291) made, he broke the Jeffs’ single-season benchmark for free throws made (187) and free throw percentage (.912) during the 2013-14 campaign.
Last season’s NABC National Player of the Year, Toomey was a three-time first team All-NESCAC selection, becoming one of only two players in league history to take home the conference’s Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons. In addition to becoming the only Jeff in school history to surpass the 2,000-point plateau, he finished his stellar career with 582 assists and 493 rebounds.
Averaging 12.6 points per game, while starting all 31 contests as a senior, Kalema finishes with 827 points, 233 rebounds and 174 assists. Posting career-high averages in points (15.1) and rebounds (6.2) this year, Killian concludes an accomplished career with 718 points, 345 rebounds and 106 assists, while Gach enjoyed a breakout season, seeing action in 30 games, while shooting 48.9 percent (23-of-47) from behind the arc.