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No. 8 Amherst pulls away from men's basketball in NESCAC quarterfinal

Brian Ellis '11 scored a game-high 23 points, finishing his career with 1,370. (File photo)

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Amherst College men’s basketball team used a 13-0 run that spanned nearly three minutes midway through the second half to pull away for a 77-61 win over Bates College Saturday afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium in the NESCAC Championship quarterfinal round.

The third-seeded Lord Jeffs, ranked No. 8 in Division III, improve to 22-2 and will return to action Saturday, Feb. 26, when they head to Williams College to take on the conference tournament's No. 2 seed, Middlebury College, in the semifinal round at 4 p.m. The Bobcats end their season with a 12-13 overall record.

Bates hung with Amherst for the majority of the game, but a key technical foul sparked Amherst’s 13-0 run, as the Jeffs took a 65-46 lead with 5:46 to play and the visitors could not recover. The Lord Jeffs, who improve to 17-0 at home on the season, are now 4-0 against the Bobcats all-time in NESCAC Championship play.

Senior Brian Ellis (Braintree, Mass.) opened the game with a three-pointer and the Bobcats held the lead until Conor Meehan buried a three of his own to make it a 14-13 game in favor of the hosts. Amherst put together a 12-0 run to take its largest lead of the period at 23-13 with 11:32 remaining.

The Bobcats cut their deficit to four points (27-23) on back-to-back buckets from junior John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.), and the Lord Jeffs' lead hovered between four and six for the final five minutes of the half. A runner in the lane by Amherst’s Tom Killian and a free throw by Ellis closed out the scoring, with the hosts carrying a 33-28 advantage into the locker room.

The teams had nearly identical shooting performances in the opening 20 minutes, with Amherst hitting 41 percent of its shots and the Bobcats connecting on 42 percent of theirs. Ellis led all scorers at the break with 10 points for Bates, which held a 21-19 edge in rebounds in the first period.

Amherst shot 6-of-12 from beyond the arc and held a 29-16 rebounding edge in the second half. Taylor Barrise hit three shots from long range in the opening 7:34 of the period, one of which made it a 45-33 game with 14:04 to play, marking the Jeffs’ largest lead to that point.

The Bobcats cut their deficit back down to six points with 9:08 to play, but a technical foul seemed to provide the Lord Jeffs with a spark. Amherst scored the next 13 points of the game, with Meehan, Pete Kaasila and Aaron Toomey providing four points apiece during that stretch. The Jeffs led by at least 15 for the last 6:24, with Bates first-year Sean Cunningham (Amherst, Mass.) providing the game's final points with a runner in the lane.

Ellis led all scorers with 23 points and five rebounds, finishing his career eighth on Bates' all-time scoring list with 1,370 points. Junior Kyle Philbrook (Auburn, Maine) and senior Alex Gallant (Bangor, Maine) added eight points apiece for Bates. Kaasila had 18 points for Amherst and Barrise chipped in with 11, with each player falling one rebound shy of a double-double. Toomey totaled 12 points, four boards, four assists and three steals, while Willy Workman had 11 points and accounted for four of his team’s nine blocks.

BOX SCORE: Amherst 77, Bates 61