Men's basketball in NESCAC championship final for first time

Tim Doyle '19 (Josh McKee photo)
Tim Doyle '19 (Josh McKee photo)

Hamilton College's Tim Doyle '19 posted 18 points, five assists and three steals, and the Continentals held on for an 89-84 win against the Tufts University Jumbos in a 2019 NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship semifinal at Hamilton's Margaret Bundy Scott Field House on Saturday afternoon.

The nationally ranked No. 8 Continentals (23-3 overall) advanced to the conference final for the first time since joining the NESCAC for basketball in 2011-12. Hamilton is seeded second for the championship and Tufts (12-14) was seeded eighth. The Continentals will play No. 3 seed Amherst College at noon on Sunday, Feb. 24 with an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship on the line. Amherst rallied for a 74-69 victory over No. 4 seed Williams College in the second semifinal.

Andrew Groll '19 chipped in 16 points and four steals for Hamilton, which recorded an 87-83 come-from-behind triumph against the Jumbos at home three weeks ago. Michael Grassey '19 dropped in 11 points, Spencer Kendall '21 scored nine off the bench, and Sayo Denloye '20 and Mark Lutz '20 added eight apiece. Kena Gilmour '20 was held to nine points but tied a career high with seven assists, and Nick Osarenren '22 grabbed eight rebounds and came away with three steals.

The Continentals' 13 steals helped forced 21 Tufts turnovers. Hamilton shot 51.7 percent from the field and made more free throws (20) than the Jumbos attempted (14).

Eric Savage paced Tufts with 21 points, seven assists and three steals. Brennan Morris scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half and Tyler Aronson recorded 11 of his 13 points in the second half. Luke Rogers registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. The Jumbos nailed 14 of their 28 3-point attempts and enjoyed a 40-34 advantage on the glass.

Tufts led 43-40 at the break but the lead didn't last long in the second half. Groll made a layup on the Continentals' first possession and Kendall forged the lone tie at 43-43 with 18:07 left when he made the first of two free throws.

Savage's 3-pointer with 16:45 remaining gave the Jumbos their last lead at 46-43. Hamilton went in front for good with a 14-4 run over the next five-plus minutes. Tufts made just three baskets during the opening 11 minutes of the second half as the Continentals built a double-digit cushion.

Groll kicked off the game-changing spurt with a basket in the paint and back-to-back thunderous dunks by Kendall on feeds from Doyle made it 49-46 with 13:53 to go. Doyle followed a Rogers layup with a pair of free throws and Groll added two more points at the line. The Jumbos' Carson Cohen scored from close range before Denloye made two free throws, and Osarenren brought the pro-Hamilton crowd to its feet with a steal and fast-break dunk for a 57-50 advantage with 11:23 left.

An offensive rebound and putback by Grassey gave the Continentals their first double-digit cushion at 62-52 with 9:07 remaining, and Hamilton's lead fluctuated between six and 12 points for the next seven minutes. A jumper by Groll handed the Continentals their largest lead of 14 points at 80-66 with 1:34 to go. Hamilton clinched the win by making nine free throws in the final 69 seconds, although Tufts managed to claw back to within four points in the final seconds by going 4 of 6 from 3-point range down the stretch.

The Continentals jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the opening two minutes and still led 15-8 after a 3-pointer by Peter Hoffmann '19 with 15:31 left. The Jumbos responded with a 19-4 run that covered the next six minutes. Morris rattled home four 3-pointers and scored 13 points during the spurt, and Tufts held a 27-19 advantage with 9:41 remaining.

The Jumbos took their largest lead of nine points at 31-22 on a layup by Justin Kouyoumdjian with 7:21 to go, and again at 39-30 with 3:38 left. Hamilton quickly got back into it with seven points in 68 seconds on a 3-pointer and layup by Grassey, and a steal and layup by Osarenren.