Jeffs Close Season with Loss
By Leon Rauch '12, Staff Writer
The Amherst men’s basketball team ended their season on a sour note this Saturday, losing in the first round of NESCAC tournament play at Colby, 67-49. The defeat marked the end of a down-again-up-again season that began in stellar fashion before a month-long nosedive that saw the Lord Jeffs lose eight of their final nine games and the last six in a row. With the defeat, the squad still manages to limp away with an overall winning record of 14-11, but finishes only 3-6 in league play. The loss also concludes the collegiate careers of Amherst seniors Steven Wheeler and D.J. Carcieri, both of whom were key contributors to Amherst’s 92-24 record over the past four years, a span that included the Div..III national championship title in 2006-2007 and a second-place national finish in 2007-2008. During an impressive career, Wheeler tallied 917 points, good enough to place him 27th among Amherst’s all-time scorers and second among long-range shooters, with 191 successful 3-pointers to his credit.

The game was much more competitive than the score indicates, at least for the first 30 minutes. Amherst charged out of the gate to take an 11-2 lead in the game’s early moments, only to see Colby claw back to take a narrow 29-26 edge heading into the locker room. Repeating a late-season pattern of scoring droughts, the Jeffs found themselves on the short end of a 15-4 second-half run by the Mules that decided the outcome, particularly in light of Amherst’s dismal shooting woes. The Jeffs made a total of only nine second-half baskets, and for the game connected on a single 3-pointer in 13 attempts. The rebounding edge also favored Colby, 40-29. Junior tri-captain Conor Meehan led the Jeffs’ scorers with 14 points and sophomore David Waller added 10.

Amherst came into the 2010 conference tournament having never suffered a quarterfinals loss, but this was also the first time that Amherst had not hosted their quarterfinals game. Because of the team’s strong start this season and a top-10 national ranking as late as January, questions will naturally remain concerning the season-ending skid. Perhaps it was merely a case of running into more talented teams late in the year, or the vast amount of away games — the only certainty that pervades is that things could have been much different. The season may have turned on the last weekend in January when, in two days, the team dropped a pair of excruciating road matches to Bowdoin and Colby by a total of five points, both decided in the last minute — the Bowdoin game was decided in the last couple of seconds. With one fewer tick of the clock or a lucky bounce of the ball, Amherst could have won either or both of those contests and built on the momentum of beating two good teams on the road. As it was, that weekend in Maine seemed to take some of the team’s swagger, and they never quite looked the same afterward.

Still, the future looks bright. Only two seniors leave the program, and this year’s young team that includes no fewer than seven first-year players and five sophomores will be back … and better for the experience.

Issue 16, Submitted 2010-02-24 05:24:29