After receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament, the Amherst men’s basketball team concluded their season with a heartbreaking 69-66 first-round loss to Keene State College on Friday, March 3.
The loss marks the first time in eight years that the purple and white have failed to advance to the round of 32.
Aware of the tournament’s single elimination format, both sides came out hard in the first half. Neither team distinguished themselves in the opening minutes, as no lead exceeded four points.
Back-to-back threes from Diego Magana ’17 seemed likely to shift the momentum in Amherst’s favor, but the Owls responded with some big offensive plays and managed to take a 32-31 lead with less than a minute remaining in the half.
Battling for a bucket inside the paint, Eric Conklin ’17 tried to give the purple and white an edge heading into intermission, but Keene State drained a trey in the last seconds to keep the Owls ahead 35-33.
The second half was marked by more relentless play from Keene State, as the Owls found a way to answer each lead that Amherst took. After a jumper from Jayde Dawson ’18 midway through the half, the purple and white went up 56-51 and seemed poised to ride the slight advantage through the remaining minutes.
However, five straight points from Matt Ozzella put Amherst back under pressure. The purple and white continued to generate quality offense, but 5-of-6 shooting from the line kept Keene State in the game.
In what looked to be the final possession of the game, Dawson drove to the hoop to break a 66-66 deadlock and secure the win for the purple and white. Unfortunately, the basket did not fall, and Keene State regained possession with only two seconds remaining. Nichols once again acted as the difference maker for the Owls, racing up the court and sinking a trey to claim the victory.
“It obviously wasn’t the result we were hoping for, and it’s tough to end my career on a game that I know we could have won.” said senior guard Reid Berman. “Still, I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of this program for the last four years, and one game doesn’t change that. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’s squad will accomplish.”
Amherst finishes the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 17-8.