Men's Hoop Downs Bowdoin in NESCAC Quarterfinals, 71-61
February 19, 2002
Zieja led all scorers with 12 points at the half en route to a game-high 29 points, including an 11-for-13 showing from the free throw line. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, one shy of Fitzsimons' game-high 11 boards. Fitzsimons added 10 points and finished with a game-high six blocks.
The game started out as a nip-and-tuck affair, with nine lead changes in the first half alone. Trailing 28-27 with 1:57 left before the break, Fitzsimons gave the game its ninth tie score by hitting the second of two free throws after being hacked by Bowdoin big-man Mark Yakavonis (Barrington, RI). The Jeffs then embarked on a four-point mini-run with a lay-up by sophomore guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and a pair of charity tosses by precocious rookie Andrew Schiel (Abbington, PA), taking a 32-28 lead with 55 seconds on the clock. Bowdoin battled back, cutting the lead to one point with a three-point play by senior forward Chris Ranslow (Hallowell, ME), setting the stage for a final first-half possession for Amherst. With the clock winding down, the Jeffs worked the ball around the perimeter, until sophomore guard John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) flashed to the free throw line and back-rimmed an open 12-footer. With one second remaining, sophomore reserve Tim Jones (Richmond, VA) pounced on the offensive rebound and tapped home a buzzer-beater, giving the Jeffs a 34-31 lead at the intermission.
Four more tie scores ensued over the first 13 minutes of the second half. The first came on a three-pointer by Bowdoin senior Mark Gilbride (Topsham, ME) off a nifty feed from classmate Hugh Coleman (Dorchester, MA), knotting the score at 40-40. Yakavonis then evened the game at 43-43 with a free throw at 10:39, before Zieja buried a pair of charity tosses three minutes later for a 45-45 stalemate, and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the score at 48-48 with 7:11 left in regulation.
It was all Amherst from there, however, as a pair of Donovan free throws sparked an 18-7 flurry from which the Polar Bears would never recover. After igniting the barrage, Donovan also capped it, all but icing the game with a rare four-point play with 1:41 remaining, draining a three-pointer and burying the ensuing free throw after being hacked in the act by Yakavonis, who fouled out on the play. Bowdoin hit a pair of three-pointers inside the final minute and resorted to fouling down the stretch, but Amherst hit seven of its last 10 free throws to seal the victory - their second win over Bowdoin in the last five days.
With a sub-par shooting night - Amherst shot just 36.7% (18-for-49) from the field as compared to Bowdoin's 48.0% (24-for-50) - the Jeffs' prowess from the free throw line proved to be the difference. Amherst shot 30-for-39 from the stripe overall, while Bowdoin hit just five of its 11 free throw attempts. The Polar Bears grabbed six more rebounds than Amherst and hit three more three-pointers, but didn't take care of the basketball, committing 12 more turnovers than the Jeffs.
Donovan joined Zieja and Fitzsimons in double figures with 16 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. Junior point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) ran the show offensively with a game-high six assists, while Harper chipped in with seven points and four steals.
Junior guard Braden Clement (Skowhegan, ME) paced Bowdoin with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Gilbride was the only other Polar Bear in double figures with 11 points.
Elsewhere in the NESCAC Tournament, seventh-seeded Wesleyan University knocked off third-seeded Connecticut College, 75-61, while No. 2 Williams steamrolled No. 7 Tufts University, 81-57. Amherst will take on Williams in the tournament semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. matchup between top-seeded Trinity College and Wesleyan. Both semifinals games, as well as Saturday's championship game, will take place at Trinity.
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