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Amherst College > Athletics > Men's Basketball > Jeffs Take NESCAC Championship With 86-75 Win Over Trinity
Jeffs Take NESCAC Championship With 86-75 Win Over Trinity
February 24, 2001

Pat Fitzsimons '03
Sophomore Pat Fitzsimons
posted a 22-point,
14-rebound performance
HARTFORD, CT - The Amherst College men's basketball team clinched an automatic bid to its second-straight NCAA Tournament with an 86-75 victory at top-seeded Trinity College in Saturday night's NESCAC Championship game. Three Amherst players scored 20 or more points in the win, including senior tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA), who netted 24, sophomore center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC) who had a 22-point, 14-rebound effort, and sophomore Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA), who chipped in 20. The Jeffs (21-5) now await the seedings for the 2001 NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Sunday night.

After missing his first two shots early-on, Daoust hit his next seven straight, including five three-pointers, en route to 19 first-half points, combining with Fitzsimons and Zieja for 36 of Amherst's 40 points before the break. Zieja also started hot with eight of the Jeffs' first nine points overall on a three-point play, turnaround jumper and three free throws to give Amherst a 9-6 advantage four minutes into the game.

Trinity responded with an 8-2 run over the next three minutes, including a pair of jump hooks by junior center Julian Bah (Concord, MA) who was plagued by foul trouble all evening, and held onto a slim lead until Daoust drilled his fourth three-pointer of the half at the 2:21-mark to knot the score at 37-37. The Bantams reclaimed the advantage on their next possession when senior guard Michael LaBella (Middletown, CT) tapped in a missed lay-up by junior guard Colin Tabb (Somers, CT)-who missed all seven of his field attempts in the first half-before Daoust came right back and drilled a three-pointer from NBA-range with 52 seconds left.

Not to be outdone, LaBella took advantage of a missed lay-up by Amherst reserve Abe Sexson (Athens, Greece) and nailed a long-range trifecta in transition as time expired to give Trinity a 42-40 halftime lead.

The Jeffs and Bantams traded buckets over the first nine minutes of the second half before Amherst blew the game wide-open with a 15-4 run to take its largest lead of the game, 71-61, with 6:45 remaining. Daoust capped the run with his sixth and final three-pointer, while Zieja poured in six unanswered points to spark the Jeffs.

After a pair of lay-ups by Zieja and Fitzsimons, Amherst scored eight of its last 11 points from the charity stripe, while Fitzsimons added a game-sealing three-point play with 51 seconds left to cement the 86-75 victory-the Jeffs' seventh straight dating back to Feb. 10.

Fitzsimons finished seven for 10 from the field and eight for 10 from the free-throw line and dominated the offensive and defensive glass with a game-high 14 rebounds. Sophomore guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) added a game-high 11 assists and committed just one turnover to go along with six points, while junior forward Pat Taverna (Whitesboro, NY) was outstanding off the bench with six points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.

The Jeffs' defense was particularly strong, holding Tabb-Trinity's leading scorer-to just four of 19 shooting, including a zero for six performance from the three-point arc, although he did manage a team-high 21 points on the strength of 13 free throws. Sophomore Trinity forward Ryan Uszenski (Woodbridge, NJ) added 14 points, while LaBella and Bah chipped in with 10 apiece. The Bantams fell to 18-6 with the loss and await the possibility of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, to be determined by the NCAA selection committee on Sunday night.

The Jeffs earned their fourth trip to the NCAA tournament and eighth consecutive postseason appearance, including four ECAC bids in the 1990's.

D3hoops.com and Onairsports.com will join forces for a three-hour Division III NCAA Tournament Selection show Sunday night at 8:00 EST with previews and predictions on the brackets, interviews with coaches and reports from regional correspondents. The broadcast will require Windows Media Player 7 or later, and Onairsports.com will also do a special women's selection preview, starting at 6 p.m. EST.
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