March 11, 2010




Choice Scores His 1,000th Career Point


Williamstown, Mass.Senior guard Antone Gray (Providence, RI) equaled the game-high with 22 points and junior forward Mason Choice (Newport, RI) scored his 1,000th career point as Rhode Island College saw its  season come to an end in a 78-74 loss to Amherst in the Sectional Semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Tournament played at Williams College.


The Anchormen (21-8) see a 10-game win streak end as RIC's bid for the Elite 8 comes up short for the second straight season. The Anchormen were one of only five programs in the nation to participate in the NCAA Tournament the past five seasons.



 Senior guard Antone Gray


The Anchormen, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half, went on a 17-5 run to take a 65-64 lead with 3:21 remaining, only to see Amherst (25-3) senior guard Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) drain a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to help lead the Lord Jeffs to the win.


 Gray added three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Choice contributed 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. He scored his 1,000th and 1,001 career points with a pair of free throws with 4:06 left in the game. Junior center Mike Akinrola (Woonsocket, RI) chipped in with 18 points and four boards.


"Our two main keys coming in were that we had to guard them and we had to get the ball back," RIC Head Coach Bob Walsh said afterwards. "They’re top 10 in field goal percentage, and we’re up there in defense. I thought we won the first battle and lost the second. They’re a great rebounding team and played with a toughness and edge when the ball came off the glass that I haven’t seen them play with before. I think that’s the biggest reason we lost the game."


Choice put RIC up, 6-4, with a layup with 15:39 left in the first half, but junior guard David Waller (Tampa, FL) answered with a three-pointer to give the Lord Jeffs the advantage on the next possession.



 Junior forward Mason Choice


Senior forward Carl Lee (Warwick, RI) followed a Choice missed trey with a bucket to help the Anchormen regain the advantage, 8-7, at the 14:44 mark.


Amherst started to build some momentum as Meehan and freshman guard Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, NC) cashed in back-to-back trifectas to give the Lord Jeffs an 18-13 lead with 9:39 left to go in the first stanza.


 Akinrola cut the RIC deficit down to three points, 18-15, with a layup at 9:28 and again, 22-19, at 7:15.


The Lord Jeffs went on a 6-2 run, paced by layups by Meehan, Waller and sophomore center Peter Kaasila (Plaistow, NH) to build a 28-21 advantage with just over five minutes left to go in the half.


A Choice jumper at 4:36 was countered by a Toomey three-pointer to make it 31-23 at 4:13. A Waller longball at 3:01 made it a nine-point, 34-25, lead for Amherst. Akinrola brought RIC within six, 34-28, at 2:46, but Meehan got hot and drained two from downtown to give Amherst its largest lead of the stanza, 12-points, at 40-28.



 Junior center Mike Akinrola


RIC was able to get layups from Lee and Akinrola over the final minutes as the Anchormen went into halftime down by eight, 40-32.


Although Amherst shot just 39 percent (15-for-38) from the field over the first 20 minutes, its exceptional 50 percent three-point shooting (8-for-16) and commanding lead on the glass, 28-14, allowed them to lead.


RIC shot 45 percent (15-for-33) overall, but could not find the rim (0-for-8) from long range. Meehan and Akinrola led the way for their respective clubs as each registered 13 first half points.


Waller and Gray each sank a pair of free throws for their clubs as the second half got underway. A Kaasila jumper and a Waller layup increased the Lord Jeffs lead to 13 points, 47-34, at the 16:27 mark.


Sophomore guard Willy Workman (Northampton, MA) converted a pair of layups to make it a 15-point deficit, 51-36, with 14:08 remaining.


RIC wasn't done yet as the Anchormen put together a 6-0 run started by a Gray jump shot. The point guard and Lee each made a pair of free throws to pull within nine points, 51-42, at 12:27.


 Amherst responded with a Toomey trifecta and a layup from Meehan to make it, 56-42, at 11:40. Rhode Island College pulled within eight points with an Akinrola three-pointer, 56-48, at 10:46, only to give up a Toomey longball 25 seconds later as the Lord Jeffs stretched their advantage back into double digits.


 The Anchormen buckled down defensively as Amherst went cold offensively to battle back with an impressive 17-5 run, paced by six points apiece by Gray and Choice, to take their first lead of the second half, 65-64, on a Gray layup with 3:31 remaining. Choice's milestone free throws had pulled RIC within one point on the prior Anchorman possession.


 After another Lord Jeff miss, RIC gained possession and looked to add to its lead. A Lee follow-up chance rolled off the rim and junior forward Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, RI) came up with a huge rebound. Toomey sank a big three to allow Amherst to go on top by a pair, 67-65, with 2:50 left on the clock and Head Coach David Hixon called for a timeout.


 After an Anchorman turnover out of the break, Toomey was fouled while taking a three and made two of his attempts to give the Lord Jeffs a four point, 69-65, lead. Gray countered with a layup to pull RIC within a bucket, 69-67, with just under two minutes left to play.



 Senior guard Antone Gray


 Amherst missed two shots on the ensuing possession, but came up with the offensive board on each occasion. Holmes grabbed a Toomey miss and fed Workman for a layup with 40 second left to play.


As both teams began fouling, Toomey made five and Meehan another two down the stretch to preserve the hard fought win.


 RIC finished the game shooting 46 percent (26-for-56) from the field, 17 percent (3-for-18) from three-point land and 90 percent (19-for-21) from the field. Amherst shot 37 percent (25-for-68) from the field, 38 percent (11-for-29) from downtown and 77 percent (17-for-22) from the charity stripe.


The Lord Jeffs dominated the glass, 50-28, in the win. Toomey equaled Gray with 22 points and sank a game-high five three-point shots. Meehan posted 20 points, paced by three longballs, to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Waller added 13 points and nine rebounds.


 "Our teams believe they’re going to win until somebody tells them they can’t play anymore so giving in was never an option," Walsh said. "When we were up one late in the game there was no doubt in my mind we were going to win the game and they [the Anchormen] knew it too. Toomey made some great plays down the stretch. He’s a special player."


It was the final game for RIC's four seniors: Gray, Lee, forward Darius Debnam (Dorchester, MA) and Nick Manson (Newport, RI). "The senior class has built a dynasty," Walsh said. "I can’t put into words what these guys have done for me."


The Anchormen fall to 1-5 vs. Amherst over the past five seasons. The Lord Jeffs also ended RIC's NCAA Tournament run in the Sectional Finals of the 2006-07 campaign.