AMHERST, MA. – Josh Chery '20 converted a layup with three seconds to play and the number one Amherst College men's basketball team held off a pesky #8 seeded Bowdoin College 71-70 in Saturday afternoon's New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) quarterfinal at LeFrak Gymnasium.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes, the last helped Amherst improve to 17-8 and reach the NESCAC semifinals for the seventh time in eight years. The Mammoths will meet Wesleyan College in the semifinals after the Cardinals topped Middlebury in their quarterfinal.
Johnny McCarthy '18 led the way for Amherst with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, as he dueled all afternoon with Bowdoin's Jack Simonds who had a game high 25 points.
Simonds had the hot hand in the first half, scoring 21 of Bowdoin's 36 first half points. He shot an impressive 8-10 from the floor and 5-6 from downtown in the first 20 minutes of action. The Mammoths went down by as many as 10 in the first half, but would climb back multiple times to keep it within reach.
McCarthy led the Mammoths in first half scoring with 12 points on 4-6 shooting. Both teams shot well and often from deep in the first half. Amherst went 7-16 and Bowdoin went 6-13 from long range, while the Mammoths also had a 14-0 advantage in points off the bench.
The second half began with a 10-0 run by Bowdoin (15-9), erasing Amherst's 37-36 halftime lead and putting the Polar Bears ahead 46-37.
Michael Riopel '18, who ended the game with 14 points and 9 rebounds, stopped the bleeding on a pair of free throws.
Amherst would continue to cut the lead to as little as two, but would eventually fall back by double digits (11) with ten minutes left in the half.
Amherst would go on another run to cut Bowdoin's lead to three, capped off by a McCarthy breakaway dunk to make the score 56-53. McCarthy countered another Bowdoin basket with a wide open three to keep the deficit at two, and Riopel would tie the game again at 58 on a driving layup with 4:30 left to play in the game.
On a broken play, McCarthy sunk a deep three-pointer to put the Mammoths up by a point, and they increased their lead to 69-65 before Liam Farley's corner three brought Bowdoin to within one. Free throws on the next possession for Bowdoin would give the Polar Bears 70-69 lead, before Josh Chery was able to bully his way through the lane to lay the ball in and score the game winner.
Chery ended the game with 11 points and four rebounds, joined in double-figures by C.J. Bachmann '19, who came off the bench to score ten points on 5-9 shooting and collect five rebounds. Garett Day '21 added nine points on three made three-pointers.
The top-seeded Mammoths will host the remainder of the NESCAC postseason tournament next weekend, with the semifinals on Saturday night and the championship game set for 2:30 pm on Sunday.