Sharp-Shooting Jeffs Off to Fast Start
Issue   |   Tue, 11/27/2012 - 22:09
Niahlah Hope '15, Public Affairs Office
Northampton native Willy Workman ’13 tallied a double-double in the Jeffs opener, a 89-74 win, before a well-rounded effort of 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks in a win over Western New England.

While most Amherst students enjoyed some downtime last week, the men’s basketball team did just the opposite, as their 2012-2013 season got off to a quick start with three games over the break.

Coming off an impressive, 26-win campaign last year, the defending league champion Jeffs are looking to build on that success this season.

Last year’s team was undefeated against NESCAC opponents, suffering only three losses in total, en route to their fifth NESCAC title and 14th NCAA tournament appearance. A third-round defeat at the hands of Franklin and Marshall ended their run, but, all in all, the Jeffs met and exceeded most people’s expectations.

Speaking of expectations, head coach David Hixon ’75 has already laid out his for this season: “Our motto for the year is 11:8:1. There are 11 NESCAC teams. Eight make the conference playoffs and one gets the automatic bid. As far as immediate goals go, we’d like to finish in the top half of the league and host a quarterfinal game — which is always tough.”

With that goal in mind, Hixon has to be happy with the Jeffs’ start to this young season. The team began the year at the 12th annual Ken Wright ’52 Invitational, before hosting Western New England Univ. With three wins in three games, things are looking good for Amherst so far.

The team opened the season with a decisive 89-74 victory over Newbury College in the first round of the Invitational. Getting his year off to a blistering start, senior guard Willy Workman put up a double-double with 19 points and 10 boards to pace the Jeffs.

Efficient in his production, Workman was 5-7 from the field and 8-10 from the line, while chipping in five assists and three steals. Co-captain Aaron Toomey ’14 was also in double figures with 16 points and three assists, while the frontcourt tandem of Peter Kaasila ’13 and Ben Pollack ’16 combined for 21 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks.

Although it was their first game together, the Jeffs certainly looked like an experienced group. Amherst jumped out to an early advantage, 15-4, and never looked back, running away with the wire-to-wire victory. Newbury did finish the first half strong to get within six points at halftime, 48-42, but that was as close as they would get. Toomey hit back-to-back threes to open the third, part of a 26-8 spurt to open the period, putting the game well out of Newbury’s reach. The Jeffs coasted from there, earning the well-deserved 15-point victory to open their season.

There was no time to celebrate though, as the Jeffs were right back at it the following afternoon, playing for the tournament title. Going up against Curry College, Amherst put on an offensive clinic, tearing up the Curry defense to the tune of 117 points, one of the most prolific offensive performances in the program’s history. The Jeff’s torched the nets in the first half, shooting a ridiculous 61.5 percent, before finishing the game a couple ticks above 50 percent. Despite the best effort of Curry standout Sedale Jones ’13, who poured in a game-high 41 points, Amherst was not threatened after the first quarter, as the Jeffs sprinted out to an early double-digit lead and coasted to the 21-point victory.

For the game, all Amherst starters scored in double figures, led by Kaasila and Allen Williamson ’13, who each notched 22 points.

Kaasila also grabbed 11 rebounds to record his first double-double of the season. Toomey chipped in an impressive 19-point, 12-assist performance, while Workman put in his typical all-around effort, filling up the stat sheet with 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three blocks.

Fresh off the tournament title, Amherst hosted Western New England Univ. in their final game over the break. Looking to keep their undefeated record intact, the Jeffs nearly duplicated their offensive eruption of the previous game, cruising to a 104-61 victory.

Shooting 53.7 percent from the field, the Jeffs had five players score in double figures en route to their largest margin of victory in almost two years. Amherst got off to a blistering start, running out to a 30-9 lead and setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The Jeffs led by 27 points at the half and began the third quarter with a 19-4 run that put any hopes of a comeback to rest.

Building on his strong start to the season, Workman put together an 18-point, 7-rebound, 3-assist, 3-block performance to lead Amherst’s attack. Peter Kaasila finished just shy of another double-double with 14 points and nine boards, while Conner Green ’16 came off the bench to tack on 16 points, shooting 4-6 from long distance.

With the victory, the Jeffs improved to 3-0 on the young season. On Tuesday, Nov. 27, they made it 4-0 with a relatively easy victory over Lasell. While the team has certainly proved it has the talent to score in bunches, it remains to be seen how they will handle tougher defenses. Regardless, Amherst has taken care of business so far and will look to build on this momentum as they have another busy, three-game week ahead.