HARTFORD, Conn. – Michael Riopel '18 swished a trey with 17 seconds left, and Jayde Dawson '18 drained a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, as the No. 13 and second-seeded Amherst College men's basketball team held on for a thrilling, 86-83 victory over third-seed Tufts University in Saturday afternoon's NESCAC Semifinal tilt at top-seeded Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
With the win, Amherst advances to the NESCAC championship contest against fourth-seeded Middlebury College tomorrow afternoon at 12 p.m. in Hartford, Conn.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- In a game that saw the score tied 11 times and nine lead changes, Amherst used a clutch three-pointer from Riopel to break an 81-81 deadlock with 17 seconds to play in regulation. After a pair of free throws from Tufts' Vincent Pace pulled the Jumbos to within one (84-83), Dawson delivered a pair of foul shots of his own, and the Purple & White survived a three-point attempt by Ryan Spadaford as time expired to clinch the win.
- Six players finished with double-digit scoring totals for Amherst, including Johnny McCarthy '18, David George '17, and Eric Conklin '17 who each netted 14 points in the winning effort. Dawson finished with 12 points, Riopel added 11 points, and Jeff Racy '17 chipped in 10 points. Connor Green '16 contributed nine points, while George pulled in 12 rebounds which tied for the game-high. Reid Berman '17 was a catalyst for the offensive effort, dishing out nine of the team's 20 helpers in just 15 minutes off the bench.
- Tufts was led by a stellar 12-for-20 shooting effort from Pace who poured in a game-high 33 points. Stephen Haladyna added 15 points, while Spadaford and Tom Palleschi followed with 12 and 11 points respectively. Palleschi and Spadaford also made an impact on the glass, hauling in 12 and 11 boards respectively in the loss.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- In a back-and-forth first 20 minutes, neither side held more than a seven-point advantage as Amherst posted a 16-9 lead following a mid-ranger jumper from Dawson with 12:26 remaining in the stanza.
- The Jumbos answered with a 14-2 highlighted by a pair of Spadaford strikes from beyond-the-arc, and capped by a bucket underneath from Pace to give Tufts a 23-18 lead (its largest of the game) with 8:54 on the clock.
- McCarthy knocked down a triple one minute later to knot the game at 23-23, and the period featured two more tie scores, before a Pace jumper with seven ticks left allowed the Jumbos to notch a 37-35 lead at intermission.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- With the score even at 48-48 following a pair makes from the charity stripe by the Jumbos' Drew Madsen with 14:12 remaining in the contest, Conklin powered in back-to-back layups, and Green connected from three-point range, as the Purple & White ran their lead to 55-48.
- Holding a six-point, 61-55 edge with just over 10 minutes remaining, Riopel delivered the first of his clutch treys to give Amherst a 64-55 lead – its largest of the game.
- Over the next eight minutes, Tufts slowly narrowed the gap and eventually tied the score at 79-79 following two Pace free throws with 1:02 to play.
- A Conklin layup seven seconds later gave the Purple & White an 81-79 lead, but Pace was able to answer with a jumper on the Jumbos' next possession to even the game once more at 81-81, setting up the thrilling finish by Riopel and Dawson as Amherst pulled away to the 86-83 win.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Amherst is appearing in its fifth straight NESCAC title game, and is in search of its fourth league crown in the last five years.
- The Purple & White and Middlebury met Feb. 12 at LeFrak Gymnasium with the Purple & White securing an 83-70 victory.
- The Panthers punched their ticket to the NESCAC championship game following a 70-58 victory over top-seeded Trinity College in the other semifinal matchup.