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John Donovan '04
Senior guard John Donovan tied a career-high 25 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 5-for-9 from behind the three-point arc on Saturday.

Fifth-Ranked Jeffs Earn First-Ever Trip to NCAA Final Four with 82-70 Win at Franklin & Marshall

March 13, 2004

LANCASTER, PA - The fifth-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team earned its first bid in school history to the NCAA Div. III Tournament Final Four with its 82-70 victory over sectional host Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) on Saturday night. Amherst senior John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) tied a career-high with 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, including 5-of-9 from three-point land, as the Jeffs will travel to the Salem (VA) Civic Center this Friday to face top-ranked defending national champion Williams College, which beat visiting Keene State College 79-64 in its sectional championship, in the national semifinals.

The opening half was dominated by defense as Amherst shot just 37.5% (12-for-32) from the floor, while the host Diplomats mustered just 33.3% (10-for-30). However, the Jeffs forced nine first-half turnovers, converting F&M’s first five into five points and an eight point advantage, while only coughing the ball up five times themselves.

Amherst sophomore guard John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) nailed a pair of trifectas and Donovan tallied one more, building their lead to 11 points with 4:15 remaining in the half, but F&M first-year guard Logan Outerbridge (Glen Rock, NJ) retaliated with a three of his own to start a 9-2 Diplomat run. Amherst junior Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA), who sparked the Jeffs to their 92-74 sectional semifinal win over New Jersey City University on Friday, hit a three pointer to end the hosts’ run, and Amherst carried a 32-27 advantage into the break.

Donovan and Bedford led the Jeffs with eight points each in the first half, while senior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and junior point guard Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) each collected four rebounds. Schiel was outstanding on defense, holding F&M senior center Steve Juskin (East Hanover, NJ) to just two points on 1-for-7 shooting at the break. F&M junior forward Bobby Lynch (Richboro, PA) paced the Diplomats with 10 points and six boards in the opening session.

Amherst began to duplicate its second-half explosion of the previous night as Donovan rattled off eight straight points, including a pair of three pointers, and the Jeffs jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first two minutes. However, it was the hosts who blew up as F&M rattled off 12 points in a row behind two triples from senior guard Jackiem Wright (Sicklerville, NJ) and the Diplomats took their first lead since the opening minute of the game, 41-40.

Amherst head coach Dave Hixon responded by reinserting Schiel and Harper into the lineup, who were sitting out with three fouls each, and the Jeffs regained a narrow four-point edge with just under 11 minutes left. The move seemed to backfire as Schiel picked up his fourth foul and then immediately picked up his fifth on a technical foul with 10:37 left in regulation. F&M hit 3-of-4 ensuing free throws, cutting the lead to one, but Amherst held its composure and fought back, nailing five straight attempts from the line, including a fierce and-one conversion from senior forward Tim Jones (Richmond, VA).

Trailing 54-50, the hosts began to see the game slip away as Lynch mimicked Schiel’s technical foul, fouling out of the game just prior to the 8:00-mark, and Amherst mustered a nine-point advantage after a Bedford trifecta. But the Diplomats would not go quietly, reeling off seven straight points on three’s from Wright and sophomore Brandon Smith (Reading, PA), and a free throw from senior guard Duran Searles (Camden, NJ), cutting the Jeffs’ lead to just two.

Donovan stepped up once again for Amherst nailing his fifth, and final, three-pointer of the contest, and junior guard Russell Lee (Lorton, VA) pilfered the ball on the following possession and converted the breakaway layup for the seven-point edge. F&M pulled back within five on a pair of free throws from Juskin, but Amherst was too much as Harper floated in a short jumper and Donovan scored a layup off a long pass from Lee to seal the win. Amherst was tremendous defensively in the final possessions to earn its first-ever trip to the Final Four.

Despite being outrebounded 49-32, including an 18-8 offensive-rebounding edge by F&M, Amherst’s defense, especially that of Jones, carried the Jeffs to the victory. Jones finished with a quiet 14 points and six rebounds, while Bedford netted 15 and Harper chipped in 13 points, six boards and three steals, leaving him just two shy of the single-season record of 97 held by Keith Poopor ’96. The Jeffs were outstanding from the free throw line as well, cashing in 24-of-30, including 18 in a row in the second half as they improved to 27-3 with the win.

Wright led F&M with 16 points, while Searles and Juskin netted 14 and 11 points, respectively. Lynch posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Smith added nine points and 10 boards. This was the second time the Diplomats were ousted from the NCAA Tournament by Amherst, losing 80-71 in their 1994 matchup. They finish the year at 26-4.

The Jeffs will face Williams for the fourth time this season on Friday. Amherst bested the Ephs in their first matchup, 78-62, but fell in both contests in Williamstown - 84-80 in overtime during the regular season, and 79-67 in the NESCAC Championship Game. This will be the first time the two have met on a neutral court since February 23, 2002, when Amherst defeated Williams 69-62 in the NESCAC Tournament semifinals, hosted by Trinity College.

Box Score

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    AMHERST IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Seventh appearance / 11-6 all-time (6-0 home, 5-6 road)
  • 1993-94 (Qualified for the NCAA Tournament in its first year of eligibility… drew first-round bye… won at Colby in second round… beat the No. 1 team in the nation, Franklin & Marshall College, which entered the game with only one loss, in the Round of 16… Fell to eventual national champion Lebanon Valley in the national quarterfinals)
  • 1996-97 (Beat visiting Colby, 83-60, in first round… fell at Williams, 86-63, in second round)
  • 1999-00 (Beat visiting WNEC, 79-77, in first round… fell at Salem State, 81-75, in second round)
  • 2000-01 (Beat visiting St. John Fisher, 89-76, in first round… fell at Clark, 89-76, in second round)
  • 2001-02 (First-round bye… beat visiting Western Connecticut State, 82-77, in second round… fell at SUNY Brockport, 69-64, in Round of 16)
  • 2002-03 (First-round bye… beat visiting Southern Vermont, 84-60, in second round… beat Rochester, 74-68, in Round of 16… fell at Sectional host Williams, 91-75, in National Quarterfinals)
  • 2003-04 (First-round bye… beat visiting Plymouth State, 113-85, in second round... beat New Jersey City, 92-74, in Round of 16... beat Sectional host Franklin & Marshall, 82-70 in National Quarterfinals...)