Men's Basketball Cruises to Sweet Sixteen
Issue   |   Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:43
Niahlah Hope '15, Public Affairs Office
In their win over Plattsburgh State the Jeffs rode their win streak to 20 games, including a perfect record in 2013.

After getting a bye in the opening round of the Division III NCAA Championship, the men’s basketball team opened their tournament play by hosting Plattsburgh State over the weekend.

The second-ranked Jeffs came into the contest riding a 19-game winning streak and were looking to earn their third consecutive Sweet 16 berth. Behind an impressive, offensive outburst from Aaron Toomey ’14, Amherst did just that, riding a big second-half to a lopsided win and keeping their title hopes alive.

Having gone two weeks since last taking the court, some rust was certainly a concern for the Jeffs. However, behind a blistering start, the team brushed aside those fears quickly. An Allen Williamson ’13 dunk followed by a Toomey three-pointer kick-started the offense and paced the Jeffs to an early lead.

Building on that momentum, Amherst got more aggressive on the defensive end. Within five minutes of the opening tip, the Jeffs were firing on all cylinders and playing their way to a double-digit advantage. A 17-3 run bookended by a pair layups from Peter Kaasila ’13 pushed Amherst’s lead to 13 points midway through the first half.

The Jeffs were not done though. Looking to put the game away early, Amherst continued to add to their cushion. A pair of triples from Conner Green ’16 and David Kalema ’14 pushed the lead over 20 and a Williamson bucket two minutes later put the score at 44-18.

Unfortunately, that was as big as the lead would get. Rather than capitalizing on their lead, Amherst became complacent and paid the price. The final 5:01 of the half showed the Jeffs just how quickly a significant lead can vanish.

Fighting for a chance to keep their season alive, Plattsburgh dug in admirably. Out of nowhere, the Cardinals caught fire from the field, making eight of their last nine shots in the period. Behind that effort, Plattsburgh put together a 19-6 run, capped by a three-pointer at the buzzer to pull within 13 points at intermission.

Plattsburgh would continue to inch closer at the beginning of the second half. A pair of triples got the Cardinals within 10 points on two separate occasions, but a well-timed timeout finally got the Jeffs back on track. Sparked by a Toomey three-pointer, Amherst rediscovered their shooting stroke and put together a 15-2 spurt. The run extended Amherst’s lead to 23, giving the team some breathing room once again.

The Cardinals, though, had one last push left in them. Capitalizing on a couple of Amherst miscues, Plattsburgh narrowed the deficit to 14 with five minutes to play.

However, behind timely baskets and defensive stops, the Jeffs did just enough to keep Plattsburgh at bay. A dunk and three-pointer from Kalema finally iced the game with just over two minutes to play, giving the Jeffs a 21-point lead and ending any Plattsburgh threat.

On the afternoon, Amherst was led by impressive play from their guards. In addition to a game-high 25 points, Toomey also tacked on seven rebounds and five assists. Willy Workman ’13 was equally notable, putting together a line of 11 points, nine boards and five assists, while tacking on three steals and two blocks for good measure.

Coming off the bench, Kalema provided the offensive spark Amherst dearly needed, connecting on three triples en route to a 15-point, three-assist performance. Breaking the backcourt trend, Williamson also had an impressive game, recording a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards.

With the victory, the Jeffs earned the chance to play for a quarterfinal berth this coming weekend.

In what will be their final home game regardless of the outcome, Amherst will host the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets for a Saturday afternoon showdown.

The Yellow Jackets are coming off an upset of No. 4–ranked WPI and will be looking to continue their Cinderella story against Amherst. After being upset in the third round last year, the Jeffs certainly know not to underestimate an underdog.

The Elite Eight beckons, but not before Amherst takes care of the business at hand.