Dan Wheeler '07
Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
Senior Dan Wheeler holds up a piece of the net to the Amherst fans after the Jeffs defeated Rhode Island College to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year

Amherst Headed to NCAA Final Four for Second Consecutive Year

By Justin Long

March 10, 2007

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College men’s basketball team is heading to Salem, VA for its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Final Four, as the Lord Jeffs defeated Rhode Island College, 81-69, in front of a packed LeFrak Gymnasium. Amherst will face The College of Wooster Friday, Mar. 16 at either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. with a trip to the championship game on the line.

The Anchormen stormed out of the gate to take a 6-0 lead, hitting their first three shots in the opening two minutes of the game. Amherst sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) put the Jeffs on the board with a three-pointer, and senior quad-captain Dan O’Shea (Lawrence, MA) scored on their next possession to make it a one-point game. Sophomore Bobby Bailey (Fall River, MA) responded with a three of his own to give Rhode Island a 9-5 advantage, while the Jeffs were held scoreless until the 14:18 mark when Baskauskas knocked down his second three.

Rhode Island jumped out to its largest lead of the game when senior John Weir (Danbury, CT) buried a three-pointer to give his team a 14-8 lead with 13:27 remaining in the half. Sophomore Kaseem Johnson (New Haven, CT) brought the lead back to six points less than 30 seconds later, but Amherst junior point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) drilled a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to ignite an 11-0 Amherst run, which was capped off by another Olson three.

Johnson stopped the bleeding by knocking down a jumper, and sophomore Tirrell Hill (Bronx, NY) cut the deficit to two points with a three-pointer, but Amherst went on its second big run of the half, scoring the next nine points to jump out to a 32-21 lead with 7:48 remaining. The Jeffs’ lead hovered between nine and 15 points until just before halftime, with Olson casually pulling up from six feet behind the three-point line to bury his third three of the half in as many attempts, putting all of Lord Jeff Nation on its feet and giving Amherst a 46-34 advantage as time expired.

Amherst was lights out in the first half, going 8-for-11 from three-point land while shooting 57.1 percent overall and connecting on all six free throw attempts. The Anchormen hit 44 percent of their shots from the floor, including 3-of-10 threes. Olson and Bailey each tallied 13 points to lead their respective teams, with Olson shooting at 80 percent (4-for-5) and Bailey at 50 percent (5-for-10).

Andrew Olson '08
Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
Junior Andrew Olson was named the Sectional MVP for the second consecutive season.

The teams went back and forth for the opening four minutes of the second half before senior tri-captain Brian Stanko (Swansea, MA) knocked down a three to ignite a 6-0 RIC run that cut his team’s deficit to just six points. The Jeffs pulled back ahead by ten points but were countered by a seven-point run, as a senior tri-captain Kamari Williams (Springfield, MA) three-pointer brought the Amherst lead to 62-59 with 10:34 on the clock.

The Jeffs once again would not let the game slip away, as they went on a 6-0 run to bring the lead back to nine points. The Anchormen pulled to within six points but never rattled Amherst again, as they were forced to foul late in the game. Amherst came through at the line and padded its lead to 12 points before the final horn, winning by a final score of 81-69.

The Amherst seniors were subbed out in the final minute of the game, giving Lord Jeff Nation the opportunity to appropriately show its appreciation for the past four years. The Amherst faithful also stuck around after the game to acknowledge each player and coach as they cut down a piece of the net to celebrate the terrific season.

RIC significantly out-shot Amherst in the second half, as the Anchormen shot 66.7 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent in total, while the Jeffs shot 35.5 percent from the floor and hit only one of their 10 three-point attempts. Bailey was held scoreless in the second half but still led his team with 13 points, dishing out six assists along the way. Johnson added 10 points and Hill chipped in with 12, with Hill adding a trio of steals and rebounds.

Five Jeffs finished in double figures, with Olson scoring 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting to lead the pack. Senior quad-captains Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) and Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) finished with 18 points and 10 points, respectively, with each pulling down eight rebounds in addition. McLaughlin did not have his usual hot hand, but added six assists and a pair of steals in a solid all-around effort. Rounding out the double-figure scorers were Baskauskas with 11 points and junior Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) with 10.

Wheeler and Olson represented Amherst on the All-Sectional Team, while Bailey’s performance over the weekend earned him the honor for RIC. Olson was also named the Sectional Most Valuable Player, marking the second consecutive season he has led the Jeffs to the Final Four by picking up the award.

The Anchormen finish their season with an impressive 27-4 record, while Amherst improves to 28-2, tying the most amount of wins in program history.

2007 All-Sectional Team
Floyd Morris (Stevens Institute of Technology)
Travon Little (Keene State College)
Bobby Bailey (Rhode Island College)
Dan Wheeler (Amherst College)
Andrew Olson (Amherst College)

Sectional Most Valuable Player
Andrew Olson (Amherst College)