Rookie playmaker Andrew Olson gave the Jeffs the lead for good with a baseline jumper with 36 seconds remaining.
Bedford, Olson Shoot Second-Ranked Jeffs Past Trinity in NESCAC Semi's
February 26, 2005
AMHERST, MA - Junior John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) and rookie Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) hit a pair of clutch jumpers down the stretch, and Bedford iced the game with two pressure-packed free throws in the waning seconds as the second-ranked, top-seeded Amherst College men’s basketball team advanced to its fifth consecutive NESCAC Tournament title game with a gut-wrenching 75-72 semifinal win over visiting fourth-seeded Trinity College on Saturday. Amherst (24-1 and winners of 17 straight) will host third-seeded Bates College - 60-54 winners over second-seeded Tufts University in Saturday’s other semifinal - Sunday at noon with the conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake. Trinity finishes its season at 19-7.
Senior co-captain forward Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) paced Amherst with 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks, while junior forward Tyler Rhoten (Ridgewood, NJ) tallied a game-high 31 points and grabbed 10 boards for Trinity.
Amherst led for most of the first 15:04 and claimed its largest lead of the opening half, 28-22 with 5:46 remaining, on a three-ball from the corner by sophomore Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) and a pair of Olson free throws. The Jeffs rested Olson shortly thereafter, and Trinity used full court man-to-man pressure to take immediate advantage. Four Amherst turnovers ensued, and just like that, the upset-minded Bantams went from a six-point deficit to an eight-point lead. Rhoten maneuvered in the paint at will during the run, nailing four short-range jumpers for 12 points at the break. An opportunistic Bedford sent the Jeffs to the locker room on a positive note, however, when he tapped home an offensive rebound off a Schiel miss as time expired, cutting Trinity’s lead to 41-35 at the half.
Amherst opened the second half with a 10-4 flurry, tying the score 45-45 on the first of two long-range bombs by senior southpaw Russell Lee (Lorton, VA). Several lead changes followed, but a Rhoten jumper with 12:03 remaining put Trinity up 55-53, and the Bantams would sustain the upper hand until the final two minutes. That’s when Bedford and Olson took over - Bedford knotting the score 71-71 on a foul-line jumper, and Olson giving the Jeffs their first lead in over 12 minutes (73-71) with a baseline pull-up with just 36 seconds on the clock.
Trinity wasted a golden opportunity on its next possession when senior John Halas (White Plains, NY) drew a shooting foul beyond the arc but managed to hit only one of three free throws. Schiel grabbed the rebound on the final miss and handed off to Bedford, who went to the line and calmly cemented the win with a pair of charity tosses.
With a three-point deficit and 17 seconds to work with, Trinity managed only an errant layup attempt and a desperation heave on its final possession, and Amherst was lucky to walk away with the hard-fought victory.
Amherst placed four of its five starters in double figures as Olson, Bedford and Lee joined Schiel with 17, 16 and 11 points, respectively. The Jeffs’ remaining starter, junior John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA), managed only two points but grabbed 10 rebounds and played tenacious defense.
Amherst is now 12-2 all-time in NESCAC Tournament play, winning the postseason crown in both 2001 and 2002 and advancing to the title game in each of the last two seasons.
2005 NESCAC TOURNAMENT
First Round - Saturday, February 19
No. 8 Bowdoin 68 at No. 1 Amherst 74
No. 7 Colby 88 at No. 2 Tufts 99
No. 6 Williams 73 at No. 3 Bates 76 (ot)
No. 5 Wesleyan 64 at No. 4 Trinity 78
Semifinals at Amherst (Saturday, February 26)
No. 1 Amherst 75 vs. No. 4 Trinity 72
No. 2 Tufts 54 vs. No. 3 Bates 60
Championship at Amherst (Sunday, February 27)
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 3 Bates (Noon)