The 2016-2017 season may have come to an end for the Amherst men’s basketball team this weekend. After defeating Williams twice during the regular season, the purple and white fell to the Ephs 76-69 in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 18 in Lefrak Gymnasium. Amherst must now wait until Feb. 27 to find out if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championships.
With their postseason runs on the line, both teams came out hard in the first half, and neither squad managed to secure a lead of more than six points. As the clock winded down, it seemed as though Amherst would head into halftime with the 30-28 lead. However, Williams’ Daniel Aronowitz drove to the hoop in the remaining 30 seconds and managed to get the equalizing bucket. A foul was called on the play, and Aronwitz converted his free throw to put the Ephs ahead 31-30 at the intermission.
The start of the second half was more of the same back-and-forth play, until Kyle Scadlock powered in a shot from underneath that sparked a 13-0 run for the Ephs. Williams held a 60-43 advantage with only 6:43 remaining in the game, and the purple and white clearly started to lose confidence.
A comeback seemed possible late in the game, as Reid Berman ’17 knocked down back-to-back threes and Jayde Dawson ’18 contributed a bucket to help Amherst come within seven of the Ephs. However, consistent performances from Aronowitz and James Heskett at the free-throw line helped preserve Williams’ lead. Aronowitz led all players with 22 points, while Johnny McCarthy ’18 and Dawson fueled the Amherst offense with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The loss marks the first time in seven years that Amherst has been eliminated in the first round of the NESCAC tournament. The team is undoubtedly disappointed in the result, but they are eager for a shot at redemption through a bid to the NCAAs.
“It would be easy to give up hope after such a tough loss,” junior guard Michael Riopel said. “But with our high strength of schedule and key wins against top 25 teams, we still have a chance to receive an at-large bid. We are going to practice hard this week and hope for the best.”
If the purple and white do not receive a bid, they will finish the season with a respectable overall record of 17-7.