AMHERST, Mass. – Clutch shots from Garrett Day '21 and pivotal free-throws from Josh Chery '20 helped lift Amherst College men's basketball over Williams, 89-86, in a thrilling quarterfinals bout in the 2020 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship on Saturday evening at LeFrak Gymnasium.
Improving to 18-7 on the season, Amherst advances to championship weekend where they will face Colby in semifinals action at 7:00 p.m. at Tufts University. The Ephs conclude their season with an 13-12 mark overall.
In the opening 10 minutes, neither side could break away as the game stayed within three points until a pair of threes kicked off a 10-0 run that put the visitors up 24-15 with 7:50 remaining. Despite scores from Josh Chery '20 and Fru Che '21, the Ephs maintained a 10-point lead until three minutes remaining in the first half.
Day netted a three and made a jump shot on consecutive possessions to begin the Mammoths late run. Down six (42-36) with 32 seconds remaining, Amherst had the last possession as Day drilled a fade away and-one from beyond the arc to cut the deficit to three points, before his free-throw put the Mammoths within two heading into the break (42-40).
At the half, Day led all scorers with 13 points and six rebounds, lending two assists, while the Mammoths shot 42.9% from deep and 85.7% from the charity stripe.
The Ephs saw team-leading scoring from Spencer Spivy and Mickey Babek who tallied 11 points apiece, while Matt Karpowicz reeled in seven boards through the opening 20 minutes of play.
Resuming play, Eric Sellew '20 jumped in front of a pass within the first minute and threw down a big one-handed slam to give Amherst their first lead since the 10:35 mark in the first stanza.
An 8-0 run that was capped off by free throws from Henry Feinberg gave the Ephs another seven point lead with 13:41 remaining. Grant Robinson '21 drove the lane and brought it back to within one (65-64), but the Ephs answered with a run of their own to go up 74-67.
Following a pair of lay-ins, Day hit another big three-pointer to tie things back up at 74-74. Going down to the wire, Day put Amherst ahead 78-75 with two free-throws, before the Mammoths fouled the Ephs to put them on the line with three seconds remaining.
After draining the first one, Cole Prowitt-Smith threw the ball off the rim where Mickey Babek grabbed the offense rebound and laid it off the glass at the buzzer to force overtime.
Only up two (82-80) in extra time, Sellew came in clutch again with another momentum-play as he jumped the passing lane and threw down another one-handed dunk to give Amherst a four point lead with 2:25 remaining in the game.
Up one with 19 seconds on the clock, Chery hit pivotal free-throws to give Amherst a three point lead (89-86). With time ticking away, the Ephs had the final possession but could not break down the Mammoths defense and relied on a deep three from Prowitt-Smith that hit the back of the rim and out. Chery corralled the rebound to solidify their advancement to the second round.
Leading all scorers with a game-high 24 points, Day notched his first career double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds, all defensive, while Chery recorded his second double-double on the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Robinson added 13 points off the bench as five Mammoths scored in double figures. Amherst shot 39.3% from three-point range and 42.5% from the floor, while Williams shot 45.8% from three and 49.3% from the floor.
Spivy scored a team-high 20 points, while Jovan Jones and Matt Karpowicz marked double-doubles, respectively, and Prowitt-Smith scored 12 points off the bench.
Amherst held a 41-38 edge in rebounding, while both teams tied at 14 in second chance points and at 21 in bench points.