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Pat Fitzsimons '03
Senior center Pat Fitzsimons tied or broke two tournament records and scored his 1000th career point on Saturday.

Tenth-ranked Jeffs Hold Off Bowdoin in NESCAC Quarterfinals Behind Fitzsimons' 20 Points, 17 Boards

February 22, 2003

AMHERST, MA - They say anything can happen in postseason play. It almost did on Saturday. Hosting eighth-seeded Bowdoin College in the NESCAC Tournament quarterfinals, top-seeded and two-time defending champion Amherst led by just three points with 2:53 remaining, but held on to eliminate the pesky Polar Bears, 78-67, before a capacity crowd at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst senior center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), who’s battled a nagging hamstring injury for much of the season, looked 100% on Saturday, pouring in 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting, including his 1,000th career point on a rim-rattling alley-oop dunk with 5:32 left in the first half. He also eclipsed his own single-game tournament record with 17 rebounds and equaled his own tournament record with six blocks.

Fitzsimons scored the Jeffs’ first six points and eight of their first 10 as Amherst looked to blow the game open with a 10-3 run over the first 5:19. Bowdoin battled back with a 12-0 flurry, capped by a three-pointer by senior guard Danny Ginn (Windham, ME) for a 15-10 lead midway through the period. Ginn was a thorn in Amherst’s side all afternoon long, connecting on 5-of-6 three-point attempts en route to a game-high 23 points.

The Jeffs remained patient, knotting the score at 17-17 on an Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) three-pointer that bounced high off the rim and kissed the backboard before miraculously falling through. Rookie sharpshooter John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) then gave Amherst the lead, although a tentative one, for good with another trifecta on the Jeffs’ next possession.

Ryan Faulkner '03
Senior point guard Ryan Faulkner dished out a game-high eight assists, most of which came in the second half.
Amherst claimed its largest lead of the half, 38-26, on a three-point play by junior forward Tim Jones (Richmond, VA), who took a no-look feed from senior point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) and was hacked in the act by Bowdoin sophomore Mark Yakavonis (Barrington, RI). The Polar Bears shrunk the gap to nine points at the half, however, on a foul-line jumper by Ginn and a free throw by senior Matt Fleck (Brooklyn, NY).

Ginn came out firing after the break, cutting the lead to just three points right off the bat with a pair of long-range bombs. Amherst senior Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) pushed the lead back to eight points with a baseline jumper and his only three-pointer of the game.

Faulkner then took over, nailing a runner and setting up each of the Jeffs’ next five field goals, including yet another no-look dish to a cutting Fitzsimons, who tomahawked his second jam of the day for a 51-43 Amherst cushion. Faulkner dropped a game-high eight dimes on the afternoon, and the Jeffs led by 10 points when he exited the game for a brief respite with 11:34 remaining.

Bowdoin managed to turn it into a one-possession game on three occasions over the final five minutes, most dramatically when senior guard Braden Clement (Skowhegan, ME) nailed a 12-footer to bring the Polar Bears within three points, 66-63, with 2:53 remaining. Amherst calmly pushed the lead back to 11 points with a 10-2 run and nailed 10 of its last 13 free throws to seal the win down the stretch.

With Fitzsimons dominating the glass, Amherst won the battle of the boards 47-31, including a 17-8 advantage on the offensive end. Zieja and junior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) joined Fitzsimons in double figures with 20 and 11 points, respectively. Harper also snagged a game-high four steals.

First-year forward Kyle Petrie (Iowa City, IA) finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for Bowdoin, which ends its season at 10-14. Yakavonis added 12 points and six boards.

Tenth-ranked Amherst (21-3) will host the NESCAC Tournament semifinals and championship game next Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s semifinals will pit the Jeffs against Little Three rival Wesleyan University at 2 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. matchup between Williams College and Tufts University. The winner of Sunday’s championship game will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Box Score / Play-by-Play

2003 NESCAC TOURNAMENT
First Round - Saturday, February 22
No. 8 Bowdoin 67 at No. 1 Amherst 78
No. 7 Bates 69 at No. 2 Williams 85
No. 6 Middlebury 81 at No. 3 Tufts 89
No. 5 Trinity 76 at No. 4 Wesleyan at 88

Semifinals at Amherst (Saturday, March 1)
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 4 Wesleyan (2 p.m.*)
No. 2 Williams vs. No. 3 Tufts (4 p.m.*)
* - times subject to change

Championship at Amherst - Semifinal winners (Sunday, March 2 at Noon)