Jeffs to Play SUNY Brockport in NCAA Tournament Sectional Round on Friday
March 4, 2002
Tickets are $5.00 for general admission and $4.00 for students and senior citizens. One ticket purchase is good for both games on Friday. Three-hundred tickets have been set aside for Amherst and can be reserved by contacting sports information director Kevin Graber at (413) 542-2390 - or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org - by noon on Thursday.
The Jeffs are making their first trip to the NCAA Sectionals since earning their first-ever tournament bid and advancing to the "Elite Eight" in 1994. Amherst then qualified again in 1997, 2000 and 2001, bowing out in the second round in each successive appearance.
The 2001-02 Jeffs have won seven straight, including a three-game sweep against Bowdoin, Williams and Trinity Colleges en route to their second consecutive NESCAC Postseason Tournament Championship. They then drew a first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament before downing Western Connecticut State in a second-round nail-biter on Saturday.
Amherst is led by First-Team All-NESCAC junior Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA), who earned both NESCAC and ECAC Player of the Week honors after averaging 25.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in a trio of NESCAC Tournament wins. Currently fourth in the conference in scoring (18.5 ppg), fifth in free throw percentage (79.5%) and eighth in rebounding (7.1 rpg), Zieja established himself as one of the NCAA Tournament's hottest players with a game-high 29 points against Western Connecticut State. The tri-captain forward has already cracked the career 1,000-point and 500-rebound plateaus and is rapidly climbing Amherst's all-time scoring list. His 1,202 career points (through Saturday) are 10th all-time at Amherst, with the school record of 1,550 career points - set by Jamal Wilson '97 - well within his reach.
His counterpart on the low post is 6-foot-8 Second-Team All-NESCAC junior center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), Amherst's second-leading scorer and the conference's third-leading rebounder at 13.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He also leads the NESCAC in blocked shots (2.7/gm.) and field goal percentage (67.0%) and has a team-high 11 double-doubles on the season, including two in the NESCAC Tournament and a 16-point, 15-rebound performance against Western Connecticut State.
Another junior, point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH), runs the show offensively, dishing out a league second-best 5.4 assists on a nightly basis. With 151 helpers on the season, Faulkner is within striking distance of his own school record for assists, 166, set last year. Joining Faulkner in the backcourt are sophomore sensations Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ). Harper sat out the season's first seven games recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot but returned with a vengeance, averaging a conference-best 2.5 steals while pouring in 10.9 points per game. Donovan is Amherst's third-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game and third in the NESCAC in free throw percentage (82.1%). He's also the Jeffs' chief perimeter threat with a team-high 44 three-pointers in 117 attempts.
One of Amherst's greatest assets, however, is the strength of its reserves. Six-foot-seven first-year phenom Andrew Schiel (Abbington, PA) brings an added dimension off the bench. A versatile scorer (8.2 ppg) and defender, Schiel has the ability to post up down low or pop outside for one of his 23 three-pointers. Meanwhile, senior tri-captain swing-man Pat Taverna (Whitesboro, NY) and sophomore guard Frank Perry (Hartford, CT) specialize in shutting down opponents' top offensive players, as Taverna did in the NESCAC Tournament Championship game against conference Player of the Year Colin Tabb. Another specialist, sophomore sharpshooter John Kloepfer (Buffalo, NY), has 22 three-pointers despite playing just 10.2 minutes per game, while rookie playmaker Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) is the Jeffs' third-leading assist-man with 59. Sophomore forward Tim Jones (Richmond, VA) has also been an effective presence down low, as has senior tri-captain post-player Paul Williams (Franklin, MA).
SUNY Brockport - ranked eighth in the nation according to the latest D3Hoops.com poll - earned its seventh NCAA Tournament bid with a 92-78 win over Oswego State in the championship game of the SYNYAC Postseason Tournament. After drawing a first-round bye, the Golden Eagles trounced visiting Trinity College in the second round, 80-61, reaching the NCAA "Sweet 16" for the second consecutive season.
Junior SUNYAC Player of the Year Mike Medbury (Attica, NY) has scored in double figures in 28 straight games and enters sectional play with 1,032 career points. He's the only Brockport player averaging in double figures at 16.1 points per game, but four other players - junior center Alex Smith (Rochester, NY), sophomore forward Charlie Croff (Lockport, NY), sophomore center Brandon Mills (Rochester, NY) and junior forward Bob Skoczylas (Alden, NY) - average at least 8.5 points.
Defense is a key to the Golden Eagle attack and senior guard Ricky Hollis (Rochester, NY) has been a major factor. Hollis has 104 steals this season and holds Brockport's single-season record with 109 (set last winter) and the career record with 321. He's also ranked sixth all-time in NCAA Division III and is currently second in the nation in steals per game (3.6).
The Golden Eagles have lost just two games this season - 74-55 at Buffalo State and 88-76 at Plattsburgh - and are a perfect 11-0 at home.