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John Donovan '04
Senior guard John Donovan persevered through a bloodied brow for a team-high 21 points in his final collegiate game.

Jeffs Close Season with 96-85 Loss to John Carroll in NCAA Consolation Game

March 20, 2004

SALEM, VA - Despite 21 points from senior John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) and 17 from classmate Adam Harper (Washington, DC), the Amherst College men’s basketball team fell to John Carroll University 96-85 in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship consolation game at the Salem (Va.) Civic Center on Saturday. Amherst closes its season at 27-5, shattering the college’s single-season record for victories and finishing fourth nationally - its best-ever finish.

After falling to archrival Williams College in Friday night’s national semifinals, the Jeffs battled fatigue, injury woes and a frenzied pace set by John Carroll’s full-court pressure defense and wholesale substitutions. Amherst committed an uncharacteristically high 19 turnovers and shot just 41.4% (29-for-70), including a 14-for-40 showing in the second half, and senior guard Tim Jones (Richmond, VA) sat out most of the game with a sore foot, while Donovan missed much of the second half with a gash over his right eye.

“We’ve traditionally had a problem with back-to-back games after playing Williams, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that John Carroll played an outstanding game,” said Amherst head coach Dave Hixon ’75. “They have a really good team, which doesn’t need to be said about any team that makes the Final Four. We hung with them for a while and they have a very effective pattern of play. What they did was very different than anything we’ve faced. They platooned a fresh group in every five or six minutes, which was tough to deal with.”

Things looked good in the opening minutes as Amherst kept pace with the frenetic Blue Streaks, opening with a 16-11 lead, thanks in part to 11 early points by Donovan, who drained a trio of three pointers and scored eight straight points during the barrage. John Carroll, champions of the Ohio Athletic Conference, answered right back with an 8-0 flurry of its own, followed by a 9-0 Amherst spurt for a 23-19 Lord Jeff lead with 10 minutes to go in the opening half. But a Brandon Mimes (Euclid, OH) dunk ignited a 15-0 John Carroll explosion from which Amherst would never recover, and Michael Grogan (Cincinnati, OH) drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the waning seconds to give the Blue Streaks a 50-41 halftime cushion.

John Carroll would extend its lead to as many as 17 points after the break, but Amherst managed to chip the deficit to just five points on a Harper three with 44 seconds remaining. The Blue Streaks shot 7-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minute, however, en route to a 24-for-30 showing from the charity stripe.

Amherst placed four players in double figures, with juniors Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) and Russell Lee (Lorton, VA) joining Donovan and Harper with 15 points apiece. Harper, already the college’s all-time leader with 321 career steals, added three more thefts on Saturday, upping his season total to 105, a new Amherst record. He finishes his career with 1,228 points, placing 10th on Amherst’s all-time scoring list. Donovan graduates with 1,084 career points, placing him 12th all-time. Together, Harper, Donovan, Jones and fellow senior Don Quinn (Princeton, NJ) comprise the winningest class in school history with 95 wins over four seasons.

“This class is really remarkable,” Hixon added. “When we graduated three really good players (Steve Zieja, Ryan Faulkner and Pat Fitzsimons) last year, everyone assumed we’d suffer. The later we got in the season and the bigger the games were, it was always Jones, Harper and Donovan coming up big for us. They’re the heart and soul of our program and we can’t thank them enough.”

Senior guard Jerry Angel (Dayton, OH) paced John Carroll with 27 points on 9-for-13 shooting, including five three-pointers. Mimes pulled down a game-high 11 caroms, as the Blue Streaks outrebounded the Jeffs 48-31. John Carroll closes its season at 27-6.

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