Basketball Notebook: Sheldon Announces Retirement From Tufts University

Bob Sheldon, who has coached the Tufts University men’s basketball team for three decades, announced his retirement Thursday. (PHOTO COURTESY: TuftsNow)

By Matt Noonan 

Prior to yesterday’s announcement from the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regarding an update on the upcoming winter sports season, which has been canceled, Bob Sheldon, who has guided the Tufts University men’s basketball team for the past 33 years, announced he will be stepping down effectively on Thursday, December 31, 2020. 

Matt Malone, who has been an assistant under Sheldon for the past 15 years, will take over as the interim coach, according to Wednesday’s (Oct. 7) release from the Tufts University athletic department

Sheldon and the Jumbos matched a program record for wins (23) this past winter while capturing their first-ever NESCAC Tournament Championship by outlasting Colby College in double-overtime

“I was getting near the end of my career as it was, and then when Covid came up and the craziness with that, I just felt that it was time for me to go,” said Sheldon, via the Tufts athletic department story, which can be seen (and read) on the school’s athletic website. 

Sheldon noted he “went back and forth” with his decision to retire, but seems content with his choice to leave a program that he believes is in “a good spot going forward.” 

Prior to their season concluding earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tufts won a pair of NCAA D-III Tournament games in Medford, including a come-from-behind win over Western Connecticut in the opening round. 

Sheldon, who is the program’s all-time winningest coach, would have entered his team’s 2020-21 season as one of the Top 25 NCAA D-III winningest coaches after being named the NESCAC and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Northeast Region Coach of the Year in March. 

The 2020-21 NESCAC winter sports season has been canceled: As noted above, the NESCAC became the first New England D-III conference to cancel its upcoming winter sports season on Thursday, October 7, after postponing its fall season on Friday, July 10

While health and safety were stressed in yesterday’s release regarding the decision by the conference’s presidents, the NESCAC did note that some of their schools have made “significant modifications” to their current academic calendar, which would limit the number of games each program would be able to compete in.  

The NESCAC has made no announcement regarding spring sports – an update will most likely come in a few months – but the conference did say the league’s 11 schools could schedule non-conference games if they choose to. However, D3Sports.com has reported that some schools within the conference have already made decisions for its various winter sports programs, including Middlebury College, which announced yesterday that they “will not hold any athletic competitions during the winter season.” 

Elms College to join the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC): While it is uncertain if and when Elms College will resume athletic competition in the next few weeks or months, the athletic department did announce some exciting news earlier this week about joining the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) for the 2022-23 school year. 

The Blazers currently compete in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) and would join a former member of the eight-team league – that would be Dean College – which joined the GNAC as a full-time member at the start of the current academic year (2020-21)

Both Elms College basketball teams competed last winter in the NECC Tournament with the women’s squad advancing to the conference championship game against Mitchell College

The GNAC has welcomed a few new schools to its conference over the past few years, including Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts in 2017, and Colby-Sawyer in 2018. 

A Career Day for Dayton Helps No. 4 Tufts Top Conn. College, 100-83

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Everett Dayton netted a career-high 25 points to lead fourth-ranked Tufts past Conn. College on Saturday afternoon in NESCAC play. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tufts Daily /Laura de Armas)

By Brian Willwerth (@BriWillerth)

MEDFORD, Mass. – The three-pointers kept falling. The points kept adding up. And the top team in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is still looking down at the rest of the league.

Fouth-ranked Tufts defeated Connecticut College on Saturday afternoon, 100-83, behind a career-high 25 points from Everett Dayton and 13 three-pointers. It was the team’s ninth win a row, and the first time this season they’ve scored 100 points in a game.

“The best thing for us is that we just have great team chemistry,” said Tufts Head Coach Bob Sheldon, whose team improved to 6-0 in the NESCAC.

This was a very entertaining, fast-paced game from both teams. Tufts never trailed in this one, and midway through the first half, it looked like the game might turn into a blowout, with the Jumbos leading by as many as 14. But the Camels (2-4) outscored the Jumbos 16-7 over a five-minute stretch to tie the game at 43. A last-second three-ball by Ethan Feldman gave the Jumbos the lead at the intermission, and they slowly increased that advantage in the second 20 minutes.

Dayton came into this contest averaging 7.5 points a game. But he more than tripled that on Saturday, and added eight assists, also a career high.

“Everett is a real good basketball player,” said Sheldon. “It all came together for him today.”

Connecticut College had four players in double figures, led by Tyler Rowe’s 19.

The Jumbos will face Newbury on Thursday night. The Camels return home on Wednesday night to take on Fisher.

Catching Up With Rachel Norton (Bowdoin College Women’s Basketball)

Rachel Norton has guided the Polar Bears to eight-straight wins this season. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

Rachel Norton has guided the Polar Bears to eight-straight wins this season. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

By Bob Whitney (@WhitneyBob)

Former Braintree High School scholar-athlete Rachel Norton is finishing her senior year at Bowdon College.

The 2013 Braintree High School graduate, three-sport captain (volleyball, basketball and lacrosse) and honor student has continued to excel at the collegiate level, both in the classroom and on the basketball court.

Norton, in her senior year, is the captain of the Polar Bears’ basketball team where she has led the squad to an 8-0 record and a No. 13 ranking in the most recent national poll (third in the Noontime Sports Women’s Basketball Top 10).

Norton took some time out of a hectic exam week schedule to reflect upon her college experiences.

What motivated you to continue to play at the college level and why did you chose Bowdoin?

I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember, and I just wasn’t ready to give that up after high school. I couldn’t imagine not continuing to play basketball, and perhaps more importantly, I couldn’t imagine not being part of a team. I chose Bowdoin because it has strong academics and athletics, and I felt that I would have a good balance between the two.

What have you noticed are the biggest differences in transitioning from playing in high school to college?

I would certainly say that the pace of the game is significantly faster in college. Everyone is stronger, faster, and quicker.

How prepared were you to play at the collegiate level?

I definitely experienced a transition period on the court where it took me some time to adjust to the faster pace of the college game. However, I think I was extremely prepared for college in the sense that I knew what kind of player and teammate I needed to be at the next level, and I can thank Kristen McDonnell for that. First of all, she stressed the importance of being a good teammate – to be gritty, selfless, and positive – and she always stressed things like defense and boxing out over hitting shots. Everything she values at Braintree High is also valued on my college team, so in that sense, I was able to transition very easily.

What challenges have you faced on the offensive end?

I’ve definitely struggled with confidence on the offensive end. I’ve been working on being more of an offensive threat, and having confidence in taking my shot and attacking the basket. So far this season, I’ve been doing a better job than in past years.

What are the challenges of being a student-athlete?

Time management is definitely a challenge. Striking a balance between sports and school requires planning and good time management skills.

Through eight games, Rachel Norton has averaged 5.3 points per game and is a perfect four-for-four at the charity stripe. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

Through eight games, Rachel Norton has averaged 5.3 points per game and is a perfect four-for-four at the charity stripe. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

What are the benefits/values of playing a sport in college?

I think being part of a team is an invaluable experience, and it has made my time at Bowdoin incredibly enjoyable. I certainly feel that I’ve learned lessons through my sport – the importance of hard work, how to overcome adversity, how to be a good leader – that will serve me later in life.

What advice would you give to a high school player looking for a good fit to play college basketball and get a quality education?

I would definitely encourage them to reach out to coaches and visit as many schools as they can. I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a D3 college athlete and feel like I’m getting a quality education while playing for a strong basketball program.

What are your plans after graduating from Bowdoin?

Great question… I’ll get back to you!

Finally, what kind of senior season do you expect to have?

We’re off to a strong start, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this year, hopefully in both the NESCAC tournament and NCAA tournament. I’m just trying to focus on one game at a time, and really soak up and enjoy my last season of basketball.

Follow Bob on Twitter @WhitneyBob; like him on Facebook and Instagram.

Mass. College Hoops: D3 Conference Tournament Championship Roundup

By NoontimeSports.com 

Four local squads claimed conference tournament championships today, along with an automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA Division 3 Tournament. Below is the four outcomes and summaries.

Men’s Basketball

No. 7 Amherst 93, No. 9 Williams 82: Tom Killian poured in a career-best 31 points, while Aaron Toomey finished with a triple-double of 12 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds as the Lord Jeffs defeated the Ephs in Amherst and claimed its third straight NESCAC crown. Duncan Robinson paced Williams with 26 points.

MIT 67, Springfield 56: Andrew Acker recorded a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds, which helped the Engineers defeat the Pride in Worcester, as well as claim its third tournament crown in four seasons. Acker was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, too. Robbie Burke led Springfield with 24 points.

Women’s Basketball

No. 6 Tufts 62, No. 9 Amherst 46: The Jumbos earned their first NESCAC championship by defeating the Lord Jeffs for the second time in Medford this season. Tufts’ Hayley Kanner led all scorers with 21 points, while teammate Michela North recorded 14 rebounds. Marley Giddins led Amherst with 15 points and eight rebounds.

Springfield 51, Smith 43: Jaimie Bickelhaupt recorded 14 points, while Emily Gins recorded 14 rebounds as the Pride defeated top-seed Smith College in Northampton and claimed its first tournament championship since 2006. Smith’s Rosa Drummond finished the contest with 14 points, too.

Mass. College Hoops: Sunday’s D3 Conference Tournament Championship Preview

By Matt Noonan 

Four local Division 3 conference tournament championships will occur this afternoon and below is a preview of each contest.

Men’s NESCAC Championship: No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 2 Williams @ Amherst, Mass. / 12 p.m.: For the third time this season, Amherst and Williams will meet on the hardwood, but this particular contest will determine the NESCAC champion. Aaron Toomey poured in a game-best 36 points yesterday as the Lord Jeffs defeated Trinity, 80-62. As for the Ephs, they defeated Middlebury, 78-75. Williams rallied from an 11-point deficit at the break to defeat the Panthers and received 27 points from Michael Mayer. Amherst and Williams met last season in the title round with the Lord Jeffs edging the Ephs, 74-73. Williams is number one in conference play in points per game (81.3), while Amherst is second (78.6). Amherst is currently on a seven-game winning streak is undefeated at home this season, while Williams has won 10 straight, including two conference tournament contests. The Ephs are 10-1 away from Williamstown.

Women’s NESCAC Championship: No. 1 Tufts vs. No. 2 Amherst @ Medford, Mass. / 12 p.m.: The Jumbos will attempt to capture their first conference crown. Tufts has appeared in three conference finals (2007, 2008 and 2012), but hasn’t been able to attain some hardware. Against the Bantams of Trinity, the Jumbos used a second half surge to earn a 57-47 victory. Tufts’ Hayley Kanner led all players with 19 points, while Michela North chipped in 10 points off the bench. Amherst trailed Bowdoin, 20-16, at intermission, but outscored the Polar Bears during the final 20 minutes, 29-22. Ali Doswell, who led Amherst and all scorers with 15 points, secured the win for the Lord Jeffs by sinking one of two free throws during the final seconds. Amherst and Tufts met in Medford a few weeks ago with the Jumbos prevailing, 63-56. Amherst hadn’t lost until that particular contest. The Jumbos have won 25 of 26 contests this season, their only blemish occurred in a non-conference clash against Babson College on Tuesday, February 11.

Men’s NEWMAC Championship: No. 3 Springfield vs. No. 4 MIT @ Worcester, Mass. / 1 p.m.: MIT used an early second half run against host WPI to secure a spot in the title game, while Sean Martin‘s layup at the end of the second session provided a spark for Springfield to defeat Babson in overtime. Both teams split their season series, so the winner of today’s match will win the 2013-14 series. MIT received 14 points and 14 rebounds from Matt Redfield, along with 16 points from Justin Pedley. MIT recorded 28 defensive rebounds and eight caroms on the offensive end. Springfield sank a variety of important shots down the stretch against the Beavers, including a triple in the second half from Nick Sienkiewicz and trifecta in overtime from Nick McKenna. MIT is 5-4 since the first day of February, while Springfield is appearing in its third straight conference championship.

Women’s NEWMAC Championship: No. 1 Smith vs. No. 6 Springfield @ Northampton, Mass. / 1 p.m.: The Pioneers secured a spot in the championship by defeating the Beavers, a squad that’s 4-1 all-time against Smith in postseason play. Paulina Solis registered a team-high 17 points for Smith against Babson, while Mandy Castro added 14 points off the bench. The Pioneers have been to the tournament championship in prior seasons, but have never won a NEWMAC crown. Springfield earned a spot in the title game following back-to-back wins against Coast Guard and Wheaton. The Pride earned a two-point lead at the break before outscoring the Lyons in the second half, 43-30. Jamie Bickelhaupt paced Springfield with 20 points, while Emily Gins registered a game-best 12 boards. Springfield hasn’t won a tournament championship since 2006.