NESCAC Final: No. 4 Middlebury 81, No. 2 Amherst 79

NESCAC Final: No. 4 Middlebury 81, No. 2 Amherst 79

Courtesy Trinity Sports Information

HARTFORD, Conn. – Guard Matt St. Amour had 22 points, including the go-ahead basket on a drive with a minute left in the game, and added seven rebounds and four assists to lead the Middlebury College Panthers to a 81-79 win over the Amherst College Purple & White in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Basketball Championship Finals on Trinity College's Ogrodnik Court in Oosting Gymnasium this afternoon.  Middlebury, seeded No. 4 in the tourney field, improves to 17-10 and earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.  Amherst, seeded No. 2 in the NESCAC Tourney field, falls to 22-5 and should receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced tomorrow.

Middlebury trailed with 90 seconds left thanks to a three-pointer from the left corner by Amherst guard Jeff Racy, but St. Amour drove the lane and put the Panthers ahead, 77-76, with a minute left to play.  Amherst guard Michael Roepel had a layup blocked on the other end by Panther center Matt Daley, and Purple & White guard Johnny McCarthy misfired on a pair of three-pointers in the final minute.  Middlebury's Zach Baines and St. Amour each hit a pair of free throws down the stretch, and McCarthy's long trey as time expired was not enough.

Amherst had led, 25-14, midway through the first half after connecting on four consecutive long balls, including the last two from Riopel.  Middlebury clawed its way back and pulled to within one at 36-35 at halftime, scoring the last six points of the first stanza including the last two on a coast-to-coast circus shot by guard Jake Brown as the horn sounded.  The game was close throughout the second half with neither squad leading by more than three points after the 18:50 mark.

Middlebury won despite missing 13 of its 16 three-point attempts while allowing Amherst to sink 13 of their 29 attempts from beyond the arc.  The Panthers dominated the boards with 44 to 33 for Amherst, while the squads combined to miss 18 of their 48 combined shots from the charity stripe.  Daley finished with 16 points and five rebounds, while Middlebury guard Jack Daly added 13 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, four assists, and three steals.  Baines had 12 points off the bench and Brown notched nine points, a game-high nine assists, and three steals for the Panthers.  Five Purple & White players scored in double figures, led by Riopel with 17 to go with a team-high seven boards off the bench. McCarthy and Racy scored 13 points apiece, while McCarthy added four assists and four steals.