Kevin Hopkins '08
Junior Kevin Hopkins led the Jeffs with 16 points in the NESCAC Championship

Williams Upsets Top-Seeded Amherst 70-69 for Third NESCAC Title in School History

By Justin Long

February 25, 2007

AMHERST, MA – Less than 24 hours after upsetting second-seeded Trinity College in a grueling back-and-forth semifinal match-up, the Williams College men’s basketball team dug itself out of a deep hole early in the championship game to storm back and win its third NESCAC title, defeating archrival Amherst College 70-69 in LeFrak Gymnasium.

The Lord Jeffs came out of the gate firing, sprinting out to a 15-0 lead in the first six minutes of action with hot shooting and tenacious defense. Sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) picked up a pair of blocks early on to lead Amherst’s defense, which forced five turnovers during the run. Sophomore Kevin Snyder (Littleton, CO) put the Ephs on the board with a three-pointer, but Amherst senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) responded with a three of his own. The Jeffs followed up with a Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) layup, increasing their lead to 20-3 after 7:48, forcing a third Williams timeout.

Amherst senior quad-captain Mike Salerno (Shrewsbury, MA) knocked down a three to bring his team’s lead to 16 points with 10:26 on the clock, but junior quad-captain Chris Shalvoy (Rochester, NY) responded with a three of his own to ignite a 14-2 Williams run, cutting the deficit to just four points with 4:29 remaining in the half. The teams traded buckets the rest of the way, with a Wheeler free throw bringing the Amherst lead to 34-28 heading into halftime.

Despite starting the game ice cold, Williams shot 44 percent in the first half, including 45.5 percent (5-for-11) from beyond the arc. Williams junior quad-captain Chris Rose (Middletown, NY) led all scorers in the first frame with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, while junior Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) scored nine points to lead the Jeffs. Amherst shot 40.6 percent from the field and knocked down eight of 16 three-point attempts, but only shot 50 percent (4-for-8) from the line.

The Amherst lead hovered between six and eight points for the first four minutes of the second half, but Shalvoy connected for threes on consecutive Williams possessions to cut the Ephs’ deficit to just two points, marking the closest they had been to the Jeffs since the opening tip.

Wheeler knocked down his second three of the game to give Amherst a six-point advantage with 13:12 remaining, but sophomore Tommas Golia (Lo Jolla, CA) matched him with three points of his own. The Jeffs went right back to Wheeler on the next possession, and the senior buried another shot from downtown. Not to be outdone, Golia matched Wheeler once again on the next possession, bringing the score to 49-46 with 12 minutes to play.

After an Olson free throw, Shalvoy buried his fourth three-pointer of the game to cut the deficit to one point, but junior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) scored the next four points of the game to bring Amherst’s lead to five points. Shalvoy continued to dominate, however, knocking down his fifth three to tie the game at 56-56 before the Ephs took their first lead of the game on a jumper by Snyder. Olson drove in for a layup to reclaim the lead, but Shalvoy once again silenced the Amherst crowd with a bomb from downtown, giving Williams a 63-61 lead with five minutes on the clock.

The Ephs took their largest lead of the game when first-year Blake Schultz (Atherton, CA) connected from downtown to give Williams a 66-61 lead, but a pair of free throws from Amherst senior quad-captain Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) tied the game at 66-66 less than a minute later. A Shalvoy jumper handed the lead back to Williams, but Hopkins came up huge by putting in a layup and drawing a foul in the process, giving the Jeffs a 69-68 lead with the made free throw.

Williams came out of a timeout and worked the ball around to Shalvoy, who spotted up for a go-ahead three, but was unable to connect. First-year Joe Geoghegan (Cape Elizabeth, ME) was there for the clean-up, and his lay-up gave the Ephs a 70-69 lead with just 16 seconds remaining. The ball made its way to Wheeler after an Amherst timeout, but he was unable to connect on his jumper, as Rose came up with the rebound and was put on the foul line with just four seconds on the clock. Rose missed his one-and-one attempt and Baskauskas came up with the defensive rebound, but the Jeffs were unable to get a shot off. The Ephs erupted in celebration and their fans stormed the court, as Williams won its third NESCAC title in school history.

Shalvoy led all scorers with 23 points, 21 of which were delivered from three-point land. Rose finished with 15 points, while Geoghegan totaled 12 points an eight rebounds. Hopkins led Amherst with 16 points, McLaughlin added 11 and Wheeler finished with 10. Olson scored 10 points while picking up five rebounds and a pair of steals, with his 11 assists giving him 27 for the tournament, which sets a new NESCAC record. Baskauskas picked up career highs in rebounds (12) and blocks (4), adding six points in a solid all-around effort.

The Ephs’ and Jeffs’ seasons will resume at a date and time to be determined Monday, as Williams will head to the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid, while Amherst will likely draw an at-large bid.