Junior point guard Russell Lee drained a career-high 27 points on Saturday.
Lee Torches No. 15 Trinity for 27, Leads Jeffs to 87-78 Win in NESCAC Semifinals
February 28, 2004
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - Junior point guard Russell Lee (Lorton, VA) torched 15th-ranked and second-seeded Trinity College for a career-high 27 points as the Amherst College men’s basketball team held off a late surge to earn an 87-78 victory in the NESCAC Tournament Semifinals on Saturday, hosted by Williams College. The Bantams rallied to cut a 18 point, second-half lead to just four, 80-76, in the final minute of the game, but the Jeffs netted clutch free throws down the stretch to advance to their fourth consecutive NESCAC Championship game tomorrow at noon. They will face the winner of this afternoon’s matchup between top-seeded host Williams College and fifth-seeded Bates College with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake.
Trinity took control of the game early as they held the Jeffs to just four points in the first four minutes and junior guard John Halas (White Plains, NY) scored seven consecutive points to give the Bantams a 13-4 edge. However, Amherst battled back, taking its first lead of the game at the 7:14-mark on a Lee free throw, and senior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) drained a jumper with just two seconds left in the half to give the Jeffs a four-point advantage at the break, 35-31.
The Jeffs repeated their slow start of the opening session, not scoring their first basket until a three pointer by Lee at the 14:35-mark. However, Lee’s bucket ignited a 22-7 run over the next seven minutes as he exploded for 16 during the stretch, giving Amherst a 60-43 lead with just under eight minutes left to play. The Jeffs seemed to have the game in hand as Trinity’s leading scorer, sophomore Tyler Rhoten (Ridgewood, NJ), fouled out with 5:19 left to play and Lee drained a pair of free throws to put Amherst up 70-54. However, foul trouble caught up with the Jeffs as well as they saw junior point guard Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY), Harper and fellow senior Tim Jones (Richmond, VA) all foul out in the final minutes and their once commanding lead dwindled to just four points as Halas banked in a three-pointer with just 54 seconds remaining. This was as close as the Bantams would get as the Jeffs were solid at the free throw stripe and sophomore John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ), who completed the game despite an ankle injury, converted a three-point play in the final seconds to seal the win.
Harper posted 14 points and eight rebounds, while Bedford netted 14 and Jones and classmate John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) each chipped in 10 points. Jones also collected a game-high nine boards.
Rhoten led the Bantams with 20 points and seven rebounds as Trinity fell to 21-4 with the loss. Halas added 15 points, and junior Craig Coupe (Niskayuna, NY) and first-year Pat Hasiuk (Enfield, CT) each scored 11 points as Trinity awaits word of an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Amherst is now 10-1 all-time in NESCAC Tournament play, winning consecutive postseason championships in 2000-01 and 2001-02 before falling in last year’s title game. Also, the Jeffs tied the school record for wins in a season with their 24th victory and look to break that mark in tomorrow’s championship tilt. The top seed has never won the NESCAC Tournament.
2004 NESCAC MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Williams 74 - No. 8 Middlebury 52
No. 2 Trinity 72 - No. 7 Tufts 57
No. 3 Amherst 97 - No. 6 Wesleyan 65
No. 5 Bates 87 - No. 4 Bowdoin 52
Semifinals - Sat, Feb. 28 (@ Williams)
No. 3 Amherst 87 - No. 2 Trinity 78
No. 1 Williams vs. Bates/Bowdoin winner (4 p.m.)
Championship - Sun, Feb. 29 (@ Williams)
No. 3 Amherst vs. Williams/Bates winner (Noon)