Men’s hoop to host NESCAC quarter final
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team split two NESCAC road games this past weekend and has earned the No. 3 seed for the league tournament.
The Panthers finished the regular season at 16-8, 6-4 in NESCAC play, and will host No. 6 Hamilton (14-10, 5-5 NESCAC) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be a rematch of a Feb. 2 game at Hamilton won by the Continentals, 76-74.
Amherst (21-3, 9-1), the No. 7 team in NCAA Division III, is the top seed and the favorite to host the NESCAC final four on March 1 and 2. Williams (21-3, 9-1) is the No. 2 seed, and Bowdoin (19-4, 6-4) is the No. 4 seed. The Panthers earned the No. 3 seed over the Polar Bears due to their 69-66 head-to-head victory on Feb. 9.
The winner of the NESCAC tournament will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Panthers will be seeking their seventh straight NCAA berth, but might have to win the league tournament to do so.
Admission to Saturday’s NESCAC quarterfinal is $6 for adults, $3 for students. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Mahaney or McCullough box offices, or those interested may call 802-443-6433.
On Sunday, host Amherst dealt the Panthers an 84-67 loss in the regular season finale for both teams. The Jeffs trailed the Panthers at the break, 34-30, but outscored Middlebury by 21 points in the second half while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor (18 for 27) after the break. Aaron Toomey scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second half for the Jeffs, while also finishing with eight assists and five rebounds.
The Panthers used an 18-5 first-half run to wipe out an early Amherst lead on the way to their advantage at the break. The Jeffs then opened the second half with a decisive 22-6 run to take charge. The Panthers got within 58-47 midway through the half, but came no closer.
Dylan Sinnickson led Middlebury with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Joey Kizel had 16 points and eight boards. Brown added 11 points as the Panthers hit on just 21 of 63 field goal attempts (33.3 percent) and three of 18 threes.
On Friday, Middlebury knocked off host Trinity, 53-45, after taking a 19-point lead in the second half. Trinity closed the regular season with a 14-10 record overall and a 5-5 mark in NESCAC to earn the No. 5 seed.
Middlebury used a 10-2 run to close the half, including five points by Kizel, to lead, 28-17, at the break. The Panthers then scored the first eight points of the second half to lead, 36-17, with 16:28 left to play on two Kizel free throws. Trinity scored eight in a row to pull within 11 at 12:19 on the clock, and got within single digits at 44-35 at the 8:06 mark.
Kizel made a trey from the left wing off an inbounds play under his own basket for a 51-39 Middlebury lead with 3:41 remaining, but Trinity cut the lead to six in the final minute before Jensen sank two free throws to seal the win.
Kizel had game-highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists, while Hunter Merryman added 12 points and five boards.
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