By Matt Noonan
Tufts University men’s basketball head coach Bob Sheldon secretly wanted to play Amherst College in the Sectional Final.
His wish was granted on Friday evening following 101-85 victory over Johnson & Wales University at Cousen’s Gymnasium.
Tufts and Amherst will square off in Saturday’s Sectional Finals with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
“(The) Rubber-match tomorrow (with) the ‘elite eight’ on the line,” said Sheldon. “We’re excited.
“I think deep down inside I wanted to play Amherst to be honest with you. I wanted to have the rubber-match; I want to go at (them) tomorrow.
“They’re a great team. They shoot the ball well, they run, (so) I think it is going to be another game in the 80’s-90’s. We’re excited to play them – it is an Amherst-Tufts thing, and what is going to happen is a NESCAC team is going to be in the final four.”
Stephen Haladyna highlighted the Jumbos’ effort, netting a team-high 30 points, while Tarik Smith scored 25 points. As a team, the Jumbos collaborated for an impressive 29-of-36 from the charity stripe.
Senior Tom Garrick paced the visiting Wildcats with 30 points, while classmate Quarry Greenaway finished with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Tufts led 47-43 at the break before outscoring the visitors, 54-42 in the second session.
Johnson & Wales – this year’s GNAC champions – concludes its season 28-3 overall. The Wildcats earned a trip to Medford following first and second round victories against Trinity (Conn.) and Fitchburg State.
“(My team) gave everything they had,” said Johnson & Wales head coach Jamie Benton, “great year.”
Five members of the Amherst men’s basketball team registered double figures, as the Purple and White defeated Babson College, 88-76, prior to Tufts-Johnson & Wales.
Jayden Dawson poured in a game-high 19 points, Johnny McCarthy netted 15 points, including a trio of trifectas, while David George tallied 13 points and seven caroms.
Amherst trailed Babson, 39-37, at the break, but outscored the Beavers, 51-37, in the second session.
“We tried to execute a little bit better,” Amherst head coach David Hixon said of his team’s second half effort. “We started the second half by going right inside to David George – that always helps your percentage so 52 percent is a great percentage inside.”
A trio of Babson players netted double-figures, including Bradley Jacks, who paced the Green and White with 15 points. Joey Flannery and Isaiah Nelesen each recorded 14 points, respectively.
“I feel very blessed to go 23-6,” said Babson head coach Stephen Brennan, who guided the Beavers to back-to-back New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament championships.