Men’s hoop on to league semi-finals
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team earned an 86-74 victory over visiting Wesleyan in a Saturday NESCAC quarterfinal and advanced to this weekend’s league final four, hosted by top-seeded Trinity.
Fourth-seeded Middlebury (15-10) will play top-seeded Trinity at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while the other semifinal features No. 3 Tufts and No. 2 Amherst at 4 p.m. The winners will meet at noon on Sunday for the NESCAC playoff title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
The weekend before last, the Panthers lost to Trinity and Amherst on the road, but defeated Tufts at home earlier this winter.
Vs. No. 5 Wesleyan (at 18-7 the defending NESCAC playoff champion) on this past Saturday, Middlebury never trailed and took an early first-half lead of 21-8 that remained at 13 at the break at 45-32. Matt St. Amour poured in 19 first-half points, including four three-pointers.
In the second half, Middlebury possessed a double-digit lead for the first 11:52, but behind the hot shooting of Harry Rafferty, who sank his first five attempts, the Cardinals began to shrink the deficit.
With 8:08 remaining in regulation, Rafferty knocked down a three-pointer to cut the Panther lead to 65-58. At 5:47, a Nathan Krill layup capped a 10-3 Wesleyan run to make it 68-63.
The Panthers got big blocks from Zach Baines and Adisa Majors and key hoops from, among others, Majors, Baines, Zach Daly and St. Amour to stretch the lead back out.
Jack Mackey and B.J. Davis brought the visitors to 79-74 at 1:09 by connecting on back-to-back deep three-pointers, but the Panthers hit their free throws down the stretch and held Wesleyan scoreless to pull away again.
St. Amour led Middlebury with 23 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Majors tied a career-high with 18 points off the bench on seven-for-10 shooting and tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds. Jake Brown finished with 11 points and game-bests of seven assists and four steals.
Rafferty led the Cardinals with 19 points with a trio of threes, while Mackey (13 points) and Krill (12 points) also hit double figures.