Mass. College Hoops: Amherst, Tufts To Meet In NCAA D3 Sectional Final

Stephen Haladyna poured in a team-high 30 points as Tufts defeated Johnson & Wales in Friday's NCAA Division III Sectional Semifinals. (Photo Credit: Tufts Athletics)

Stephen Haladyna poured in a team-high 30 points as Tufts defeated Johnson & Wales in Friday’s NCAA Division III Sectional Semifinals. (Photo Credit: Tufts Athletics)

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.

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