Assistant Director, NESCAC
100 Venture Way - Box 13
Hadley, MA 01035
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MEN’S BASKETBALL Championship Preview - Feb. 20, 2006 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AMHERST EYES REPEAT AGAINST FAMILIAR FOES
Remaining Four Teams All Participated in 2005 Semifinal
HADLEY, Mass. - Amherst College, the defending NESCAC Men’s Basketball Champion, will attempt to add a fourth NESCAC crown to its legacy this weekend when the Lord Jeffs host the 2006 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass. The four teams competing in this year’s semifinals all advanced to the semifinals during the 2005 championship, and all four teams were neck- and-neck for the number-one seed in this season’s tournament heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The semifinals begin on Saturday, February 25, when top-seeded Amherst takes on fourth-seed Bates at 2:00 p.m., followed shortly afterwards by second-seeded Trinity against third-seed Tufts at 4:00 p.m. The 2006 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship concludes with the final on Sunday, February 26.
Amherst (23-2, 8-1 NESCAC) opened its title defense this season with a loss to Trinity on January 14 at LeFrak, 88-85 in overtime. Since that loss, one of only two this season for Amherst, the Jeffs have rattled off 13 consecutive victories and outscored opponents by a 23.6- point margin. Amherst advanced to the semifinals after defeating eighth-seed Connecticut College 74-48 on Saturday. The Jeffs has made it to the championship game every year since tournament play began in 2001, winning the title twice as the fourth-seed (2001, 2002) and last year as the top seed. Depth has proven to be Amherst’s greatest asset this season, as a total of nine players average 10 minutes or better of playing time per contest, with no member of the roster playing more than 30 minutes. Senior John Bedford (Ridgewood, N.J.), a member of the All-Conference First Team last season, is averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this year, both team highs.
It will be a rematch of last year’s championship game when Amherst takes on fourth-seeded Bates (20-5, 6-3 NESCAC) this coming Saturday. The Bobcats came up short in their bid to upset the Jeffs in 2005, falling 65-57, the only time the two teams have met previously during the NESCAC tournament. Amherst took the lone meeting of the season on February 10 in Amherst, 88-52. The Bobcats had their hands full during the quarterfinals of the tournament over the weekend, having to overcome a first half deficit before downing rival Bowdoin 67-51 to advance. Bates boasts one of the top defenses in the league this season, holding opponents on average to a league-low 61 points per game while allowing opposing teams to connect on roughly 40 percent of their shots, ranking the Bobcats second in that category. Bates at one point put together a 16-game winning streak, unmatched by any other team this season in the NESCAC, but managed to finish the regular season with three straight losses, allowing more than 80 points in each of those games. Junior Rob Stockwell (Temple, N.H.) leads his teammates this season on the court, averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per outing.
Second-seed Trinity (18-5, 7-2 NESCAC) returns to the semifinals for the third consecutive year after it held on for an 84-81 victory over Colby last weekend. The Bantams will now have the opportunity to extract some revenge this Saturday when they tangle with Tufts for the second time in just over two weeks. It was Tufts that dealt Trinity an 84-80 overtime loss in Hartford, Conn., on February 10 that put the top seed just out of reach for the Bantams. Senior forward Tyler Rhoten (Ridgewood, N.J.) and junior guard Kino Clarke (Brooklyn, N.Y.) will look to guide Trinity to its first championship game appearance since 2001 on Saturday afternoon. Rhoten, an All-Conference First Team selection last season, currently leads the NESCAC in scoring with an average of 21.0 points per game and is fourth in rebounding with 8.0 boards, while teammate Clarke is averaging 16.6 points, good enough for sixth in the league.
Third-seed Tufts (20-5, 6-3 NESCAC) was just one more big win away from earning itself the top seed in this season’s tournament. The Jumbos were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak before faltering at Amherst in a winner-take-all contest on the last day of the regular season, 99-70 on February 11. Tufts rebounded from the loss nicely with a 101-89 win over Williams to advance to the semifinals. While it is the second consecutive appearance in the NESCAC semifinals for Tufts, the Jumbos have never made it to the championship game, falling last year to Bates in the semifinals, 60-54, and to Williams in the 2003 semis, 64-63. The Jumbos have taken the last two regular season meetings with the Bantams, however the lone meeting between these two squads in the NESCAC tournament also happens to be the last time Trinity beat Tufts, 72-57 in the 2004 quarterfinals. Senior center Dan Martin (Sandwich, Mass.) leads his teammates in scoring this season with 17.5 points per game, putting him fourth in the NESCAC.
Founded in 1971, The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) consists of 11 liberal arts colleges and has consistently reflected its commitment to the values of athletics and academic achievement. The member colleges of the conference are Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University, and Williams College. For more information on the NESCAC, visit www.nescac.com.
2006 NESCAC MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP Semifinals - Saturday, February 25 at Amherst No. 4 Bates at No. 1 Amherst - 2:00 p.m. No. 3 Tufts vs. No. 2 Trinity - 4:00 p.m.
Championship - Sunday, February 26 at Amherst Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.