CLINTON, N.Y. -- Sophomore Grant Robinson scored a career-high 32 points as Amherst College defeated Williams College 74-69 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men's basketball semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Scott Field House on the campus of Hamilton College.
Their third win over Williams this year sends Amherst (22-4) into Sunday afternoon's conference championship game. The #3 seed Mammoths and #2 seed Continentals will tip-off for the title at 12:00 PM tomorrow afternoon.
Robinson's outing was not unlike last weekend's performance by teammate Fru Che, who scored 30 points in Amherst's quarterfinal win over Wesleyan. Like Che, Robinson made 11 field goals and split his offensive output equally between halves.
No. 13 Amherst also relied on its size against the Ephs (20-6), particularly through senior center Joe Schneider, who had seven blocks, one shy of a NESCAC men's basketball tournament single-game record. Schneider also grabbed eight rebounds and scored ten points, one of four Mammoths in double-figures.
First year Devonn Allen (11 points) and Che (10 points, 4 assists) joined him in that category.
The Mammoths led for much of the first half and were ahead 40-35 at the break, but the game would feature 13 lead changes and the Ephs did not relent, even when Amherst opened the second half on an 8-3 run to take their first double-digit lead at 48-38 five minutes into the period.
Bobby Casey, who led Williams with 17 points on 7-16 shooting, scored 13 of his points in the second half to help the Ephs keep pace. With Amherst still ahead by ten after Garrett Day '21 hit three free-throws, Casey's jump shot sparked a 13-2 run to give the Ephs back the lead at 58-57 with under seven and a half minutes to play.
The teams played within a three-point margin for the next few minutes, with a three-pointer by Allen keeping Amherst on par. Casey hit a triple to open up a five-point lead for the Ephs with three and a half remaining.
Those were the final points Amherst would concede. Robinson knocked down a jumper and then converted a layup to pull the Mammoths within a point.
Schneider came up with a huge block on James Heskett, grabbing his own rebound and then nailing both free-throws when he was fouled with less than two minutes to play, giving Amherst the lead for good. He would add another rebound, another bock and a steal before the final horn sounded to preserve the Amherst lead, salted away by a layup and two free-throws by Robinson to cap his career night.
Heskett scored 15 points but made just four field goals on fourteen attempts. Karpowicz added 13 points and six rebounds, while Kyle Scadlock scored 11 points nad was a rebound shy of a double-double as the Ephs won on the boards, 41-34.
Robinson's previous career high was 23 points, which he scored in two different home games earlier this year – a win against Emerson on December 1st and a loss against Colby on January 25th.
This is the first time since 2013-14 that Amherst has beaten Williams three times in the same season. That year, after accomplishing the feat for the second consecutive campaign, they would meet the Ephs for a fourth time, in the NCAA Final Four, where Williams finally got the better of them.
The Mammoths will make their 14th appearance in the NESCAC championship game tomorrow, looking for their eighth title against six times as runners-up. They were last in the finals in 2016 and last won the title in 2014, the end of a three-peat for Dave Hixon and his troops.
The Continentals, who handed Amherst a loss in the final regular season game of the year, are in the championship for the first time in program history. They had made the tournament just four times and were 1-4 in NESCAC playoff games heading into this year's postseason.
Photos Courtesy of Josh McKee