Panther men’s hoop fails to make NESCAC playoffs

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team split a pair of home games this past weekend to finish with a 17-7 record overall, but the Panthers’ 4-6 NESCAC mark left them short of qualifying for the league tournament, and their season came to a close.
On Sunday, the Panthers knocked off visiting Amherst, 82-69. Amherst finished its regular season at 18-6, 6-4 NESCAC, and will enter the league tournament as the No. 5 seed.   
Midway through the first half, Middlebury went on an 11-2 run to lead by 33-22 at the 7:27 mark. Threes from Hunter Merryman and Connor Huff sparked the run. Middlebury settled for a 41-34 lead at the half as Merryman netted a dozen points.
Middlebury maintained a lead of at least three points for the remainder of the game and pushed the lead to 57-46 on a three from Merryman at 13:28. The Jeffs responded with a 7-0 run, but the Panthers eventually pulled away on buckets from Merryman, Matt Daley and Matt St. Amour. A dunk by Dylan Sinnickson, his last hoop for the Panthers, pushed the lead to 14 with a minute to go.
Merryman finished with 24 points in his final game for Middlebury, while St. Amour scored 18 points. Daley finished with 14 points, 11 boards and three blocks, and Jack Daly dished out a career-best nine assists. Jake Brown handed out eight helpers as the Panthers shot 46.5 percent from the floor.
On Friday, the Panthers rallied from 22 down early in the second half, but saw the comeback fall short in a 90-85 loss to first-place Trinity (19-5, 9-1 NESCAC). 
Trinity took a 39-24 lead into the break, and then scored the first seven points of the half to lead, 46-24 at 17:52. The Bantams maintained nearly a 20-point advantage over the next 11 minutes, and still led by 68-50 with 6:59 left.
Middlebury tallied the next six points in a span of 52 seconds on lay-ups by Merryman and Connor Huff and two Brown free throws to cut it 68-56.
The teams traded points, and the Bantams led, 86-76 with 1:14 on the clock. Middlebury pulled to within four (87-83) via a 7-1 spurt over the next 48 seconds, capped off by a Sinnickson tip-in at 0:26. But Bantam free throws sealed the win.
St. Amour led the Panthers with 20 points, all in the second half, while Merryman added 16. Daley finished with 13 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for his third double-double in the last six games, while Brown chipped in with 11 points and game-bests of seven assists and four steals.

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