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Amherst College > Athletics > Men's Basketball > Jeffs to Host St. John Fisher in NCAA First-Round
Jeffs to Host St. John Fisher in NCAA First-Round
February 25, 2001

Brian Daoust '01
Senior guard Brian Daoust
is the Jeffs' main perimeter
threat with a team-high
72 three-pointers
AMHERST, MA - Amherst College will make its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship Tournament when it hosts St. John Fisher College of Rochester, N.Y. in one of 16 first-round matchups on Thursday night. The NCAA announced seedings for the 48-team field on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Amherst, now 21-5 overall and owner of a seven-game winning streak, earned its first-ever automatic bid and fourth overall NCAA appearance with an 86-75 win at Trinity College in the inaugural NESCAC Tournament Championship game on Saturday. Meanwhile, St. John Fisher clinched the Empire 8 Conference Championship and an accompanying automatic bid with an 84-70 win over Utica College on Feb. 17. The Cardinals finished 17-8 overall and 10-4 in conference play and will be making their seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years.

Thursday's winner will travel to regional rival Clark University for a second-round matchup on Saturday. Other first-round pairings in Amherst's region include the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Cabrini College, the City College of New York at Catholic University and SUNY Brockport at Colby-Sawyer College, with Wilkes University, Widener University and Hobart College awaiting the winners, along with Clark, on Saturday.

Amherst and St. John Fisher have never met before and have no common opponents this season. The visiting Cardinals feature a trio of hot-shooting guards in seniors Mark Niggli (Rochester, NY), R.J. Fiorelli (Eerie, PA) and sophomore Aaron Berwanger (Silver Springs, NY)-all double-figure scorers who collectively account for 54.0 percent of St. John Fisher's offensive output. Niggli paces the Cardinal attack at 15.6 points per game on the strength of 108 free throws in 128 attempts (84.4 percent), while Fiorelli scores at a 14.0 ppg clip to go along with a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game, 77 assists and 32 steals. He also poured in a school-record 40 points on 13-of-18 shooting in Fisher's conference-clinching regular-season finale against Utica College. Meanwhile, Berwanger chips in 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and is the Cardinals' most accurate shooter at 50.0 percent (84-for-165). St. John Fisher loves the three-point arc with 184 treys in 545 attempts (33.8 percent), led by senior guard Rob Schoener's (Bogota, NJ) 45 long-range bombs.
St. John Fisher
St. John Fisher is making
its seventh NCAA Tournament
appearance in the last eight years

Leading the offense for Amherst are sophomore forwards Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) and Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), along with senior guard Brian Daoust (Dover, MA), who collectively scorched Trinity for 66 points in Saturday's NESCAC Championship win. For the season, Zieja has been Amherst's most potent offensive threat, averaging a team-best 17.8 points per contest, while his 8.6 rebounds per game are second only to Fitzsimons' 9.6 rpg. Daoust has been the Jeffs' main perimeter threat, averaging 16.2 ppg, including a 72-for-193 effort from downtown. Meanwhile, Fitzsimons has been a dominating presence inside, posting 10.3 ppg and a team-high eight double-doubles to go along with 53 blocks. Furthermore, slick sophomore point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) fuels the Amherst attack with a team-high 151 assists, while first-year guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC), junior forward Pat Taverna (Whitesboro, NY) and senior center Abe Sexson (Athens, Greece) all provide added scoring punch and defensive intensity off the bench.

An Amherst win over St. John Fisher would set up a highly anticipated rematch at Clark University on Saturday. The Jeffs lost to Clark 118-111 in triple overtime at LeFrak Gymnasium on Nov. 30, in what was the longest and highest-scoring game in school-history, despite a career-high 39 points from Daoust who tied an Amherst record with nine three-pointers. The Jeffs went on to win nine straight games, including a pair of victories over archrival Williams College.
Head Coach Dave Hixon
Amherst Head Coach Dave
Hixon has led the Jeffs
to eight consecutive
postseason appearances

A victory on Thursday would also tie the Amherst record for wins in a season set by the 1993-94 Jeffs, who posted a 22-5 record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first and only time in school history. Amherst also appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1996-97 and last season, when they were eliminated at Salem State in the second round after beating Western New England College, 79-77. The Jeffs have now posted eight consecutive postseason appearances, including four ECAC bids in the 1990's.

Of the 48 teams selected for the Division III NCAA Tournament, 35 are Conference Champions, eight are runners-up and five represent conferences that don't qualify for automatic bids. Selections are made by the Division III Men's Basketball National Committee, with one member from each region. Each national committee member chairs a regional committee of four to seven people, who produce regional rankings during the last six weeks of the regular season. First and second-round games are held at the higher seed, while the sectionals (March 9-10) feature four teams playing at each of four campus sites. The Final Four will be held at the Salem (VA) Civic Center on March 16-17.

Seedings for the 2000-01 Division III Women's Tournament were also announced on Sunday. Amherst was omitted from the pairings after a disappointing 54-41 loss to visiting Bowdoin College in the NESCAC Championship game on Saturday. The Jeffs (22-4) will await a likely ECAC Tournament bid later this week.

2000-01 NCAA Tournament Pairings

First Round Second Round Sectional
UW-Eau Claire at Benedictine Chicago    
Cal Lutheran at Linfield Lewis & Clark
Aurora at Washington U. Elmhurst  
Grinnell at Ill. Wesleyan Wartburg
First Round Second Round Sectional
Svannah Art & Design at Roanoke Christopher Newport    
Nebraska Wesleyan at Gustavus Adolphus St. John's
Mississippi College at Millsaps McMurry  
Gettysburg at Hampden-Sydney William Paterson
First Round Second Round Sectional
Western New England at Salem State Mass-Dartmouth    
Marian at Carthage Wooster
MacMurray at Maryville (Tenn.) Wittenberg  
Defiance at Calvin Ohio Northern
First Round Second Round Sectional
Kings Point at Cabrini Wilkes    
St. John Fisher at Amherst Clark
CCNY at Catholic Widener  
Brockport at Colby-Sawyer Hobart