Men's hoop wins twice after taking first loss
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team bounced back from its first loss — on the road this past Friday — to win a pair of games, one in dramatic fashion on Saturday and another with a strong defensive performance at home on Tuesday.
All three games came against tough competition. Middlebury lost at Amherst, No. 22 in NCAA Division III, on Friday, 81-69; edged host Hamilton (a team with an 11-3 record) on Saturday, 77-76; and defeated visiting No. 18 Albertus Magnus, 84-76 on Tuesday.
The Panthers improved to 15-1 and are ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division III heading into home NESCAC games this weekend, vs. undefeated No. 12 Colby on Friday at 7 p.m. and vs. Bowdoin (5-8) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
On Tuesday the Panthers held a versatile and athletic Albertus Magnus team to about 16 points below its average and snapped the 11-2 Falcons’ 11-game winning streak in the 84-76 victory.
Panther Coach Jeff Brown was happy with his team’s defense and rebounding in the first half, when Middlebury held the Falcons to 37% shooting and finished strong to take a 42-34 lead at the break. The win also allowed the Panthers to finish 13-0 against non-league foes.
“It’s really a hard team to guard from a quickness standpoint, keeping their quick guards in front of you. And then their post players were either strong and bulky, and tough to handle in that way, and (Damian) Grant is more of a long post player that is a challenge to guard one-on-one,” Brown said. “So I was really pleased with the effort.”
Albertus took an early 14-10 lead, but Panther junior forward Ryan Cahill came off the bench to score 10 points in a little over two minutes as Middlebury went on top, 20-18.
After Falcon Tyreek Perkins hit a three to make it 30-29 in favor of Albertus, the Panthers closed the half on a 13-4 run to take the lead for good. Four Panthers scored in the surge, including five points from junior forward Tommy Eastman, four from junior guard Max Bosco, a coast-to-coast drive from junior guard Jack Farrell, and two Cahill free throws.
After the break, junior guard Griffin Kornaker scored six quick points (four of those by sinking a trey while being fouled and then hitting the free throw), and a Farrell three-pointer pushed the lead to 15. And Bosco erupted for 12 points in the first 8:35 of the half as Middlebury stretched its advantage to 71-50 at 11:25 on a Matt Folger baseline jumper.
Afterward, Brown pointed out the Panthers have a lot of weapons.
“Any of our core guys are capable of giving us a big boost on the offensive end. Tonight it was Bosco and Cahill. Against Hamilton it was Eastman,” he said. “We do have a lot of guys who play beautiful basketball.”
But so do the Falcons, and Jahmerikah Green-Younger sparked a 7-0 run that cut the lead to 71-57 at 8:10. And the Panthers went cold as the Falcons picked up their defensive intensity and also hit the offensive glass hard, with 17 offensive rebounds. Justice Washington, Marquan Watson, Grant, Perkins and Terry Dawkins all finished with multiple offensive boards for the Falcons.
Meanwhile, after a Bosco jumper at 7:42, the Panthers managed just three free throws until Folger sank a critical three-pointer at 2:02. That hoop made it 79-68 and effectively ended the Falcon rally.
Green-Younger led Albertus Magnus with 18 points, Perkins netted 16, while Grant scored nine with seven rebounds. Watson finished with seven points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Bosco scored 23 points, including nine-for-nine on free throws. Folger finished with 12 points, 10 boards and five blocked shots. Eastman finished with 15 points, Cahill scored 12, and Farrell added 11 points and six assists.
Brown said the Panthers have to focus on rebounding, especially after forward Alex Sobel left the school for personal reasons.
“We certainly hope to make some improvements in that area,” Brown said. “So guys just have to compensate for that and just have to be gritty and tough and get more team rebounds.”
At Hamilton on Saturday, Bosco hit two free throws with six seconds remaining in the Panthers’ 77-76 win
Hamilton led, 43-40, at the break, and the teams traded the lead in the second half. With the game tied at 64-64, the Panthers scored the next seven points to go up by 71-64 at 6:05.
But the Continentals answered to lead by one 76-75 at 0:21. Hamilton then fouled Bosco, who converted the winning points.
Eastman scored 23 points and added 12 rebounds and three blocks. Farrell scored 17, Bosco added 13, and Kornaker chipped in eight points and five assists. Kena Gilmour led Hamilton with 16 points.
On Friday, host Amherst (10-4, 1-1 NESCAC) hit 47.8 percent of its shots and outrebounded the Panthers, 47-33, in the Mammoths’ 81-69 win.
The Mammoths led at the half, 43-40, but the Panthers were up, 54-52, at 8:30 of the second half before Amherst went on a decisive 13-0. Middlebury came no closer the rest of the way than 76-69 with 2:49 to go.
Farrell scored 20, and Eastman (11) and Bosco (10) also reached double figures. Folger contributed seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Amherst’s Garrett Day scored 21 points, while Eric Sellew added 14 points and 13 boards.
Brown said the weekend was a mixed bag.
“We felt really good about our guys answering the bell the second night. We didn’t play particularly well against Amherst,” he said. “We feel great about where we are at this point, but the most important games are coming. Because the league games are coming, and they position you for making the playoffs and seeding for the conference tournament.”
Brown likes his team’s chances because of its experience, confidence and unity.
“We’re fortunate to coach a group that’s passionate about the game of basketball. They’re really hard-working,” he said. “We just have tremendous chemistry.”