Amherst men advance to Division III FInal Four
SALEM, Va. — December 6 is a long time ago. The Amherst College men’s basketball team might not be playing for an NCAA Division III national championship if it hadn’t lost at home to Babson that night.
Amherst hasn’t lost since then, and by picking up its 22nd consecutive victory, is now one win from playing in the national title game.
Willy Workman had 21 points, Allen Williamson had a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds and were two of five Lord Jeffs to score in double figures as the nation’s second-ranked team pulled away to beat Cabrini (Pa.) 101-82 in the third game of the Elite Eight at the Salem Civic Center.
Amherst will play North Central (Ill.), Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The Cardinals defeated Middlebury, 77-65, Friday.
“It was that next game (after Babson) when we came together,” said Workman, a Northampton native, “and we haven’t looked back since.”
It took the Lord Jeffs until late in the first half to gain control.
Cabrini’s Aaron Walton-Moss converted after Amherst’s David Kalema turned the ball over, tying the game at 24 with 7:15 left to play.
Amherst went ahead for keeps when Tom Killian missed a 3-point shot but Williamson tipped home the rebound. That made it 26-24 and started a 20-6 run that put the Lord Jeffs on top 44-30 at halftime.
“I thought our greatest attribute tonight was our mental toughness,” Amherst coach Dave Hixon said.
The Lord Jeffs would need that mental toughness in the second half, as the Cavaliers from outside of Philadelphia refused to go away.
Midway through the second half, Amherst led by as many as 16 points.
Cabrini came back and cut the lead to 12 when Walton-Moss, who also scored 21, completed a 3-point play with 11:02 left.
The Cavaliers’ problem down the stretch was their inability to shoot free throws. Cabrini (25-6) came into the game shooting 63 percent from the charity stripe and was only 15 of 28 from the line in the second half. The dagger may have come when A.J. Williams made 1 of 2 from the line with 9:32 left and Connor Green hit a 3-pointer at the other end. Cabrini never got any closer.
“We said in the second half that we have to get to the line right away because we were much more aggressive. When you get there, you’ve got to make them,” Cabrini coach Marcus Kahn said. “It was very frustrating to get there. A couple of them were in the and-one situation, to really bring us back under 10 a couple of times. We miss the (free throw) and they come down and make a 3.
“We had the momentum. You have to make free throws at that point of the game.”
Aaron Toomey and Kalema had 17 point each, while Ben Pollack had 14 for the Lord Jeffs (28-2).
With the win, the Lord Jeffs are two victories from claiming their first national title since 2007.
“This whole run that we’ve been going on, we come out with the same attitude each game,” Williamson said. “Each game has kind of been a step on the ladder. We’re trying to reach our destination at the final, the national championship, if we keep going.”