After beating Worcestor Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to reach the Sweet 16, the Jeffs traveled to Williams the weekend of March 11. Their first opponent, Rhode Island College, proved a tough matchup for the Jeffs. While they came out strong early and built an eight point halftime lead at 40-32, the Anchormen stormed back to take a one point lead with 3:34 remaining in the game by a 65-64 margin.
Aaron Toomey ’14 responded with a long three to give the Jeffs the lead for good, as they hung on to win 78-74. Toomey led the Jeffs with 22 points, including three triples, and co-captain Conor Meehan ’11 also propelled the team to victory with a solid all-around showing.
Meehan scored 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. In addition, Meehan hit the 1,000 point mark for his collegiate career with his final bucket in the RIC game, becoming only the 24th member of the Lord Jeffs to reach that level of scoring prowess. But rather than focusing on his remarkable individual achievement, Meehan looked ahead to the team’s next game, saying that “We know we can play with and beat teams like Williams.”
The Jeffs’ foe in the Elite Eight was indeed the archrival Ephs, and the clash was the fourth time the two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Amherst had gone winless in the previous three meetings, and the trend unfortunately continued as Williams defeated the Jeffs by a score of 77-71.
The first half saw plenty of back and forth play from the two teams, as Meehan pushed the Jeffs to stay with the host Ephs. The Jeffs went into the locker room at the half down 34-39, and their adjustments seemed to work. They came roaring back to take the lead with 13 minutes remaining.
The Lord Jeff lead stretched to four points after Meehan nailed a three with 12:30 to play, but the Ephs bounced back and regained the momentum with a pair of clutch three pointers by James Klemm ’13, including a four-point play. The Jeffs continued to battle, however, and hung close until Williams hit a three pointer with 24 seconds to play, pushing the lead to seven and putting the game out of reach.
Meehan scored 17 points in the loss, and concluded his career with 1,017 points, good for 23rd in the Lord Jeff scoring record books. His 360 career assists also rank third on the Jeff’s all-time list, and these stats, along with his leadership, made him an all-American Third Team selection. David Waller ’12 and Pete Kaasila ’13 both dropped 16 points. Kaasila shot an impressive 60.6 percent from the field on the season, the tenth-best mark in Lord Jeff history.
Toomey also put his name in the record books, falling only one point short of the 363 point single-season rookie scoring record held by John Pavelski ’98. His free throw marksmanship was the fifth-best in school history (86.4 percent).
While these individual accomplishments cannot erase the disappointment of losing to Williams and not making the Final Four, the Jeffs had a strong season, especially after last year’s subpar campaign. The team will look to build on their progress to go even further in NCAAs next year.