Jeffs Earn Fourth-Seed and First-Round Home Game in NESCAC Championship Tourney
February 18, 2002
Second-seeded Williams College (7-2 conference) and third-seeded Connecticut College (6-3) also earned home games in the opening round of the tournament. Williams will host seventh-seeded Tufts University (3-6), who the Ephs topped, 85-69, in the next to last weekend of the regular season, while Connecticut will host sixth-seeded Wesleyan University (4-5), as the Cardinals try to avenge an 80-65 loss to the Camels earlier this year as well as a first-round loss in last year's tournament.
Amherst has won three straight and eight of its last 10 games overall, including an 85-79 conference win over visiting Bowdoin on Friday night. The Jeffs led the entire game and placed five players in double figures against the Polar Bears, and haven't lost to Bowdoin since a 64-63 setback on February 13, 1999 in Brunswick, Maine.
Amherst is led by junior tri-captain forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA), who recently pierced the career 1,000 point and 500-rebound plateaus and tops the Jeffs in scoring at 17.3 points per game. His partner in the frontcourt, 6'8" junior center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), is Amherst's leading rebounder, grabbing 8.5 boards on a nightly basis to go along with a 13.5-point scoring average. A third junior, veteran point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH), runs the show offensively, dishing out a team-high 5.4 assists per game, while a pair of sophomore guards, Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ), round out Amherst's starting five.
The top seven teams in regular season conference play qualify for the NESCAC championship tournament. The top-seeded team hosts the semifinal and final rounds, while the next three seeds play home games in the first round. The top seed faces the lowest remaining seed in one semifinal and the other two first round winners face off in the other semifinal. The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship tournament.
Twenty-fifth year head coach Dave Hixon's Jeffs have consistently excelled in the postseason, claiming four ECAC Championships (including consecutive titles in 1995 and 1996) and advancing to the NCAA second round in 1997, 2000 and 2001, after a Cinderella run to the NCAA "Elite Eight" in 1994. Last season, Hixon was honored as the NESCAC Coach of the Year after leading the Jeffs to a 22-6 overall mark, a share of the regular-season NESCAC Championship and the conference's inaugural Postseason Tournament Championship.
There will be a $3.00 admission charge for Tuesday evening's first-round game. Children under 12 accompanied by an adult and students with Amherst College ID will receive free admission.
2002 NESCAC Men's Basketball Tournament
First-Round/Tuesday, Feb. 19 (Times to be determined)
No. 7 Tufts (12-12/3-6) at No. 2 Williams (19-4/7-2)
No. 6 Wesleyan (14-9/4-5) at No. 3 Connecticut College (16-8/6-3)
No. 5 Bowdoin (16-8/5-4) at No. 4 Amherst (18-6/5-4) 7:30 p.m.
Semifinals/Saturday, Feb. 23 @ Trinity / 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.
Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 Trinity (17-4/8-1)
Two other first-round winners
Championship/Sunday, Feb. 24 @ Trinity / Noon