Five Hamilton College players scored in double figures and the Continentals posted a 93-88 win over the Colby College Mules in a 2019 NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship quarterfinal at Hamilton's Margaret Bundy Scott Field House on Saturday afternoon.
The nationally ranked No. 10 Continentals (22-3 overall) are the second seed for the championship but will host next weekend's tournament semifinals and final for the first time thanks to No. 8 seed Tufts University's upset of top seed Middlebury College. Hamilton will play Tufts in the first semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. followed by Amherst College and Williams College in the second semi at 4. The championship final is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 24 at noon.
The Continentals avenged their only home loss this season -- an 86-78 setback against Colby back on Jan. 26. Hamilton made sure that didn't happen again as the Continentals led for virtually the entire game. Hamilton, which advanced to the semifinals for the second year in a row, shot 55.7 percent from the floor and held a 48-26 advantage in points in the paint.
The Mules (17-8) were the seventh seed for the championship. Colby drained 12 3-pointers and enjoyed a 36-28 advantage on the boards.
Peter Hoffmann '19 helped lead Hamilton with 19 points, and Kena Gilmour '20 chipped in 19 points and five assists before he fouled out with 3:31 left. Andrew Groll'19 was 7 of 8 from the field and finished with 17 points. Michael Grassey '19 scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Tim Doyle '19 dropped in 10 points -- all in the second half -- and handed out five assists. Nick Osarenren '22 added six points and three steals off the bench.
Matt Hanna nailed five 3-pointers for the Mules and led all players with 28 points. Sam Jefferson and Wallace Tucker contributed 16 points apiece and Noah Tyson pulled down 11 boards. Jefferson scored the 1,000th point of his Colby career with a free throw in the final minute of the first half.
Tyson pulled the Mules within two points at 90-88 on an old-fashioned 3-point play with 44.2 seconds remaining. Groll was fouled on the Continentals' next possession and made the second of two free throws with 20.9 seconds to go. Colby still had a chance to tie with the shot clock turned off but the Mules were whistled for an offensive foul with 11.6 seconds left. Doyle was fouled on the ensuing in-bounds play before any time came off the clock and calmly sank both free throws for the five-point cushion. The Mules missed a deep 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
Colby owned leads of 2-0 and 4-2 early in the first half. Hamilton scored the next five points on a basket from beyond the arc by Hoffmann and two Gilmour free throws and led the rest of the way.
The Continentals were clinging to a 16-15 edge with 14:14 remaining in the half when they went on a 12-0 run. Hoffmann started the spurt with a pair of layups and Osarenren buried a 3-pointer and came up with a steal and thunderous fast-break dunk. Mark Lutz '20 knocked down a 3-pointer that gave Hamilton a 28-15 advantage with 9:49 to go.
The Continentals took their largest lead of 16 points at 39-23 after Hoffmann found Gilmour for a dunk that brought the pro-Hamilton crowd to its feet again with 4:40 left. The Mules responded with a 13-2 run that trimmed their deficit to five points at 41-36 with 2:12 remaining. Eventually the Continentals settled for a 48-40 lead at the break. Hoffmann finished the first 20 minutes with 14 points and six rebounds.
Hamilton's lead fluctuated between four and 11 points for the first 19 minutes of the second half. A layup by Ty Williams drew Colby within four at 89-85 with 1:05 to go. Hoffmann went 1-for-2 at the line and pushed the Continentals' advantage back to five with 57.2 seconds left. Tyson's layup and free throw 13 seconds later made it a one-possession game for the first time since it was 18-15 six minutes into the first half. Hamilton shot 59.3 percent (16 of 27) from the field in the final 20 minutes.