Springfield, Mass -- December 2, 2011 -- Despite 32 points from junior Alex Berthiaume, the third-ranked Amherst Lord Jeffs edged the Springfield College men's basketball, 81-71, in the opening game of the Pioneer Valley Classic on Friday evening at Springfield College's Blake Arena.
The 32 points for Berthiaume, a 5-11 junior guard from Springfield, Mass, were the most points scored by a Springfield College player since Pat Crean tallied 32 against Amherst on Dec. 5, 2009. Berthiaume was the only player to score in double figures for the Pride.
Berthiaume also tied Crean's record for the most points scored in the Pioneer Valley Classic.
Meanwhile, the Lord Jeffs produced a more balanced effort as sophomore guard Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, N.C.) scored 21 points, including 8-for-8 from the free throw line, all in the last 1:13 when it was a five-point game at the time. Junior guard Willy Workman (Northampton, Mass.) added 15 points. Senior guard Taylor Barrise (Allendale, N.J.) scored 14, and senior guard/forward David Waller (Tampa, Fla.) added 11.
It was Springfield's second straight contest in which it played a team with an unblemished record. But this time it was SC's opponent which prevailed. Amherst, ranked #3 nationally, is now 5-0, while the Pride suffered its first loss and is now 5-1.
The opening half of play featured seven lead changes as both teams battled to gain control of the tempo. After freshman guard Josh Altman (Rockport, Mass.) connected on a mid-range jumper to even things at 17 with 10:31 on the clock, the Lord Jeffs put forth a 10-2 run, capped off by a Barrise trifecta, to take a 27-19 lead with 6:46 remaining.
However, behind the outstanding play of Berthiaume, the Pride battled back to make it a one-point game at 32-31. Barrise answered with his third three of the first half to push the visitors lead back to four, only to have Altman finish in transition to once again make it a one possession game. An inside bucker by Waller with less than a minute remaining allowed Amherst to take a 37-33 lead at the half.
In the second half, Amherst scored the first four points, and from there the lead for the Lord Jeffs ranged anywhere from seven to 12 points except for a couple of occasions. Three times in the last several minutes, SC cut the margin to five. SC then cut it to four (75-71) with 51 seconds left on a 3-pointer by junior guard Matt Pascuzzo (Wallingford, Conn.).
But Toomey finished it off with six more free throws -- two each with 49 seconds, 39 seconds, and 33 seconds left.
The Pride shot .446 from the field, Amherst .426. Amherst's 3-point shooting made a difference -- .524 (11-for-21), while SC shot .364 (4-for-11). Both teams shot very well from the free throw line -- Amherst .900 (18-for-20), Springfield .773 (17-for-22).
Amherst out-rebounded SC, 37-31. Neither team turned it over excessively -- SC 12 times, Amherst 10.
The Classic concludes on Saturday when Amherst takes on Westfield State at 3:00 before the Pride battle Elms at 5:00 pm.
In the second game of the night, a second unbeaten team entering this tournament lost its first game of the season. Behind Andre French's new tournament-record 36 points, Elms College defeated Westfield State, 78-70.
With the win, Elms captured win #1 of the 2011-2012 season, upping its mark to 1-3. Meanwhile, Westfield State is now 5-1.
French, a sophomore guard from Torrington, Conn., tallied a Pioneer Valley Classic record 36 points, breaking the record set by Springfield College's Alex Berthiaume 32 points in the 81-71 loss to Amherst in the first game of the night, and which had tied Springfield College's Pat Crean's record of 32 set on Dec. 5, 2009 against Amherst.
Also scoring in double figures for Elms was senior guard Daniel Gonzalez of East Windsor, Conn. with 16 points and junior guard David McDaniel (Plainfield, N.J.) with 14 points.
For Westfield State, two players each scored 20 points for the evening. They were junior guard Lee Vazquez (Attleboro, R.I.), and 6-7 junior center Matt Devine (Pembroke, Mass.).
A few more Pioneer Valley Classic records were broken in this game. French tied a record for most field goals made with 13 -- tying the record previously set by Jim Bayne of Western New England versus Westfield State on Dec. 2, 2006. Also, Devine of Westfield State set a record for blocks by an individual with seven, breaking the old record of six by Kyle Fredette of Western New England versus Springfield on Nov. 30, 2007.
The Blazers jumped out to an early 20-8 lead after Andre French connected on a jumper with 10:05 remaining in the opening half. From there, the Owls poured on a 16-6 run capped off by a layup by freshman forward Grant Cooper (Northampton, Mass.) to even things at 26-all.
Vazquez drove the baseline for a lay-in with 1:13 on the clock to give Westfield its first lead of the game at 31-29, before it would eventually go into the half with a 33-31 lead.
A 3-pointer by Vazquez 30 seconds into the second half would give the Owls its largest lead of the game. But with 15:31 left, with the score tied at 42-all, French made a 3-pointer to give Elms the lead for good. That began a 10-0 run which proved decisive. A lay-up by French with 12:07 left pushed the lead to 10 at 52-42. Three times, Elms led by as many as 12 points -- the last of which came with 6:20 (at 64-52) to go on a jumper by French.
A few times, Westfield cut it to five, including 73-68 with 37 seconds left. But Elms eventually won it by eight, 78-70.
Photo by Cindi Williamson of Fat Dog Fotos