Fitzsimons' Triple-Double Leads Amherst Past Lasell, 86-75
January 22, 2002
Fitzsimons exerted his defensive dominance right from the opening tip, swatting senior forward Dwayne Okantey (Queens, NY) and pinning sophomore guard Greg Walker's (Lauderhill, FL) attempted layup against the glass on Lasell's first two possessions. The host Lasers countered with a frenzied full-court trap defense that forced the Jeffs into a wealth of early turnovers and kept the game close through much of the first half.
After trading buckets through the first 9:54, Amherst settled into an offensive rhythm and tried to pull away on several occasions. Trailing 19-18, the Jeffs went on a 7-0 mini-run on a putback by sophomore guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC), a long-range three by classmate John Kloepfer (Buffalo, NY) and a transition layup from first-year phenom Andrew Schiel (Abbington, PA) off a baseball pass from sophomore point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH). Lasell rebounded with an 8-2 run of its own, knotting the score at 27-27 with a nifty reverse layup by sophomore center James Smith (Stamford, CT). The Jeffs would take the lead for good on the ensuing possession, however, with junior tri-captain Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) connecting off an inbound pass from Harper, followed by a long-range trey by Faulkner, a tip-in by Zieja and a foul line bank shot by Schiel.
With under a minute left before the break, first-year center Demetrius DeJesus (Bronx, NY) cut Lasell's deficit to four points with a running hook, giving Amherst the last possession of the half. The Jeffs then let the clock wind down to seven seconds, when Faulkner penetrated and kicked the ball out to first-year sharpshooter Russell Lee (Lorton, VA), who used a slick up-fake to sneak into the paint and drill a mid-range jumper for a 38-32 halftime lead.
Amherst blew the game open in the second half with a pair of early threes by Harper and a back-breaking 12-0 run midway through the period. Predictably, Lasell turned the game into a foul shooting contest, with all but two of Amherst's points over the last 6:15 coming from the charity stripe.
Despite the Jeffs' woeful 22-for 36 output from the free throw line, Lasell was able to creep no closer than nine points down the stretch, maintaining its full-court pressure until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Including Fitzsimons' breakout performance, Amherst placed four of its five starters in double figures. Donovan led the way with 17 points - including a string of eight consecutive free throws in the waning minutes - while Zieja poured in 13 points and Harper finished with 12. Schiel added 13 points off the bench on 5-for-8 shooting.
Okantey paced Lasell with a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds. The Lasers remain undefeated in North Atlantic Conference play.
Amherst returns to action Friday at 7 p.m. against visiting NESCAC-rival Bates College.
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