Courtesy of Amherst Sports Information
CLINTON, N.Y. - Sophomore Grant Robinson scored a career-high 32 points as No. 3 Amherst defeated No. 4 Williams, 74-69, in the NESCAC Semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Scott Field House on the campus of Hamilton College.
With its third win over Williams this year, Amherst (22-4) advanced to the conference championship game against No. 2 Hamilton at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
Robinson's outing was not unlike last weekend's performance by teammate Fru Che, who scored 30 points in Amherst's quarterfinal win over Wesleyan. Like Che, Robinson made 11 field goals and split his offensive output equally between halves.
Amherst also relied on its size against the Ephs (20-6). Senior center Joe Schneider had seven blocks, one shy of a NESCAC men's basketball tournament single-game record. Schneider also grabbed eight rebounds and scored 10 points and was one of four Mammoths in double-figures.
First-year Devonn Allen (11 points) and Che (10 points, 4 assists) joined him in that category.
The Mammoths led for much of the first half and held a 40-35 lead at the break. The Ephs did not relent as the game would feature 13 lead changes. Amherst opened the second half on an 8-3 run to take its first double-digit lead, 48-38, five minutes into the period.
Bobby Casey, who led Williams with 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting, scored 13 of his points in the second half to help the Ephs keep pace. With Amherst leading by 10 after two free throws from Garrett Day, Casey's jump shot sparked a 13-2 run to allow the Ephs to regain a 58-57 advantage with under seven and a half minutes to play.
The teams played within a three-point margin for the next few minutes, with a 3-pointer by Allen keeping Amherst on par. Casey hit a triple to open up a five-point lead for the Ephs with three and a half remaining.
Those were the final points Amherst would concede. Robinson knocked down a jumper and then converted a layup to pull the Mammoths within a point.
Schneider came up with a huge block on James Heskett, grabbing his own rebound and nailing both free-throws to give Amherst the lead for good with less than two minutes to play. He would add another rebound, another bock, and a steal before the final horn and Robinson helped seal the victory with a layup and two free throws to cap his career night.
Heskett scored 15 points, Karpowicz added 13 points and six rebounds, while Kyle Scadlock scored 11 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double as the Ephs won on the boards, 41-34.
Amherst posts three wins over Williams in one season for the first time since 2013-14. That year, after accomplishing the feat for the second consecutive campaign, Amherst would meet the Ephs for a fourth time, in the NCAA Final Four, which Williams won.
The Mammoths are making their 14th appearance in the NESCAC Championship game and are looking for their eighth title. They were last in the finals in 2016 and last won the title in 2014, the end of a three-peat for Dave Hixon and his troops.
The Continentals, who handed Amherst a loss in the final regular season game of the year, are in the championship for the first time in program history. They had made the tournament just four times and were 1-4 in NESCAC playoff games heading into this year's postseason.