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Men's basketball season ends with NESCAC semifinal loss at Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Bates men's basketball team's foray into the semifinals of the 2012 NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship came to an end with Saturday's 97-74 loss to the No. 2 nationally ranked and top-seeded Lord Jeffs of Amherst College.

Amherst (24-2, 10-0 NESCAC) opened the game on a 41-17 run and never looked back, to advance to its first championship game since 2009, with hopes of capturing a fifth league title. Falling in the conference semifinals for the second time in three years, Bates finished 13-13 (5-5 NESCAC) on the season.

Bates senior John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) finished with 22 points and six rebounds, while sophomore Luke Matarazzo (Shelton, Conn.) sparked Bates' comeback attempt midway through the game and finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and five assists. Junior Ed Bogdanovich (Portland, Maine) chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds, and junior Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.) netted 10 points. The Bobcats shot field goals at a 50.0 percent rate (29-for-58), including 57.7% (15-for-26) in the first half.

Coming out firing, Amherst’s Taylor Barrise connected on his first two attempts from beyond the arc before an Aaron Toomey trey gave the home team an early 9-4 edge.

Peter Kaasila kept things rolling with a hook shot in the lane before Toomey found David Waller on a run out, pushing the Lord Jeff lead to nine with 16:10 on the clock. Waller struck again with a triple from the left corner on the Jeffs’ next possession before a Squires putback ended a string of 13 unanswered Amherst points.

After Jeff Holmes extended the Jeff lead to 14 on a layup at 10:24, Toomey picked up a steal before going end-to-end, putting Amherst ahead 28-12. Moments later, Holmes again converted down low before a Willy Workman three from the top of the key suddenly stretched the Amherst lead to 21.

Bates freshman Graham Safford (Hampden, Maine) momentarily stemmed the Jeff tide with a bucket at the 8:18 mark, but the home team scored eight of the game’s next 11 points, capped off by an Allen Williamson dunk, to build a commanding 41-17 lead.

Bates closed the half out strong, outscoring Amherst 19-8 over the final 5:53 of the frame, to pull within 13 at the intermission. Matarazzo helped spark the Bobcat rally, netting 12 points during the key run to help bring the visitors back within striking distance.

Looking to carry Bates' momentum into the second period, Bogdanovich opened up the scoring with a jumper from the right elbow to make it 49-38. Still up 11 after a Matarazzo jumper with 17:53 to go, Toomey drained a three, kick-starting an 11-2 Amherst run over a 1:59 span that gave the Jeffs a 64-44 cushion with just over 15 minutes remaining in regulation.

With the Bobcats back within 17 after another Matarazzo jumper, Barrise buried a straight-away three before a Workman reverse layup coupled with a Williamson bucket staked the home team to a decisive 84-60 edge with 7:53 to play.

Toomey led all scorers, pouring in a career-high 26 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including a 5-for-7 clip from three-point range. Barrise added 16 points, going 5-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-5 from long distance, while Workman chipped in with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. Holmes rounded out the list of Jeffs in double figures with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Amherst, which held a 34-22 rebounding edge, shot a blistering 62.1 percent (36-for-58) from the floor, including a 50.0 percent (11-for-22) clip from behind the arc.

Finishing their careers in Bobcat garnet were seniors Reid Christian (Pownal, Maine), Will Furbush (South Portland, Maine), Kyle Philbrook (Auburn, Maine), Squires and Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine).

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