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Amherst men, women continue strong starts to basketball season

The Amherst College women’s basketball team continued to show that it can overcome the loss of five starters from last year.

The Lord Jeffs remained undefeated on the young season with a 62-32 win over Mount Holyoke on Tuesday night at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst (3-0) lost all five of its starters — including NESCAC player of the year Caroline Stedman — and 60 percent of its scoring from last year’s Division III Final Four team.

A number of different players have showed the ability to pick up the scoring void.

“It’s been like that for most of the season,” said Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki. “Last game it was pretty balanced and tonight we spread the ball around well.”

Seven players scored six or more points, with senior Bridget Crowley (10 points) leading the way. Crowley opened the season with 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists against Brooklyn College.

One trend evident in the Jeffs three games, is their stinginess on defense. They entered Tuesday’s game holding opponents to 29 percent shooting from the field. They had arguably their best performance yet against Mount Holyoke, as they held the Lyons to 20 percent from the field. Mount Holyoke failed to make a second-half field goal until nearly 14 minutes in.

“I can’t say I’ve been totally pleased with our defense yet, but we have some players with some length to contest, and that helps not giving too many second chances,” said Gromacki.

Megan Robertson, who was averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game entering Tuesday, scored just three points and grabbed six rebounds.

“She was huge for us in the first two games,” said Gromacki. “Tonight wasn’t her night offensively, but she’s a factor out there in other ways and that means a lot to us.”

Starting shooting guard Cheyenne Pritchard made just one field goal in the team’s first two games, but she rebounded with a nine-point, six-rebound performance against Mount Holyoke.

“She hit some big 3s and got us going so that was good to see,” said Gromacki.

Amherst plays at Keene State next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Men’s basketball

If its first three games serve as a harbinger, the Amherst men’s basketball team is going to be an offensive juggernaut.

The Lord Jeffs (3-0) eclipsed the 100-point mark for the second straight game, as they cruised past Western New England College 104-61 on Tuesday night at LeFrak Gymnasium.

“People say ‘Amherst isn’t going to shoot that well this year’ but I don’t know about that, I think we’ve got some kids who can play,” said Amherst coach David Hixon. “We shot the ball really well today, and I was pleased with the way we played.”

Senior forward Willy Workman of Northampton led all scorers with 18 points. He added seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Workman, last year’s second-leading scorer, entered Tuesday averaging 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in the team’s first two games.

“He defends well, he’s got length, he’s clever and he can score it in every way,” said Hixon.

The Lord Jeffs engineered the blowout despite leading scorer Aaron Toomey (17.5 points per game) registering just two points.

“Aaron struggles more in games like this then he does in the big games, and I’ll take that,” said Hixon.

Guard Tom Killian, who rarely played on last year’s team that went 26-3 and fell in the third round of NCAA Division III tournament, stepped up for Amherst with 13 points.

“You can’t leave him alone, he’s shooting the heck out of it now,” said Hixon.

Center Peter Kaasila (14 points, nine rebounds) and forward Allen Williamson (14 points, seven rebounds) also continued their strong starts to the season by combining for 28 points and 16 rebounds.

Freshman Connor Green impressed off the bench with 16 points, including four 3-pointers and an impressive putback dunk.

“He could be starting actually,” said Hixon. “He’s not only good in this game, he’ll be good against Williams, Wesleyan and Middlebury.”

The Lord Jeffs host La Salle next Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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