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Gators fall from NCAA's with loss to Amherst

Gators fall from NCAA's with loss to Amherst

Pittsford, NY –Playing the program's first NCAA Tournament game, The Sage College's men's basketball squad faced the Lord Jeff of Amherst College on the campus of St. John Fisher in the Manning & Napier Gym. For Sages' men's basketball team, the 2014-2015 season was a memorable and record-setting one, but it came to an end on Friday night as Amherst posted a 91-67 victory to move on to the second round. Now 21-7 Amherst will meet the victor of the St. John Fisher-WPI contest on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. For the Gators, the season comes to an end at 23-5, marking the most wins on the program's six-year history.

Sage took a lead 12-7 at 15:43 and held on to a lead before Amherst led 19-18 at 11:29 as Travis Gill dunked the ball and was fouled, making the three-point play to knot the action at 19-19. AC took a 22-19 lead before Melvin Ford hit a layup and brought the Gators within one down, 22-21 with 9:53 left to play. Amherst held to the lead and three times during the first half Sage pulled within five points, but was unable to get any closer in the first half. The Lord Jeffs took a 43-34 lead at the break.

Senior forward Kai Deans (Miami, FL/Monsignor Pace) had eight first half points, while junior guard Andre Robinson (Fort Pierce, FL/Fort Pierce Westwood) added seven points and juniors Jorrdan McCray (Orlando, FL/Wekiva) and Melvin Ford (Voorhees, NJ/Eastern Regional) each had six points at the break.

Amherst's sophomore Reid Berman (Winnetka, IL) had 12 first half points, while sophomore Eric Conklin (Scottsdale, AZ) had 10 points and six rebounds at the break.

The Jeff opened the second half strong and Sage tried to fight back as they pulled within striking distance, down 64-55 with 8:26 left. Amherst shot a blistering 70.0% from three-point range in the second half (7-10) and by game's end had a 41.7% effort from beyond the arc. Berman exploded for 28 points and was 4-6 from three-point range after making 11-of-14 shots from the floor to pace his team in the NCAA win. Conklin added 18 points with eight rebounds and a pair of blocks in the contest.

Dean's finished with a team-best 19 points in the action, marking the 14th time this year he paced the team on the hardwood. He caps his stellar career having garnered Skyline Conference Player of the Year honors, while helping to rewrite the basketball record book. He scored a school-record 468 points this season and caps his two years at Sage with 826 points and 424 rebounds. He stand No. 4 all-time in scoring and No. 5 in career rebounding while setting a new standard for best career point per game average with a 17.3 ppg average.

Senior tri-captain Troy Nwanna (Washington, DC/Mercersburg Academy) finished with four point, making 4-of-4 from the line in the game and closes his four-year career as a Gator with 504 points, which is No. 7 on the all-time scoring list. He also had 274 rebounds to finish tied for No. 6 all-time in rebounding with classmate and fellow captain, Jacob Sopchak (Rhinebeck, NY/Rhinebeck). Sopchak caps his career as the program's all-time block leader with 115 after leading this year's team with his 52 blocks.

Sage's senior forward Kai Deans (Miami, FL/Monsignor Pace), the Skyline Conference Player of the Year, was held to nine points with six rebounds. Deans now has 449 points on the season, a new standard for most points in a campaign for any Gator, while elevating his career number to 807 points, good enough for the No. 4 all-time leading scorer in program history.

Robinson, who earned Skyline Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors added 12 points with six rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Ford added nine points with six rebounds, while sophomore Marcus Patterson (Bronx, NY/Mount Saint Michael Academy) added eight points for the Gators.

In the post-game press conference, the Gators were represented by senior tri-captains Nwanna, Sopchak, and Deans.

Nwanna, "I think the season in my mind went very well. We went undefeated at home. I think that is something that the program can grow on. We had a season we can all be full of pride for what we accomplished. When you look back at the 20 wins we achieved and a championship and reaching the NCAA's, those are things we can all take extreme pride in the milestones we accomplished as a team."

Sopchak added, "I felt really blessed on the goals we accomplished as a team and the ability to represent Sage as a player this season and throughout my career. It's a great feeling to leave my mark, but an even better feeling to see the growth of this program and how far it's come in the last four years."

Deans remarked, "I am very grateful for the individual awards and accolades, but I am truly blessed for the goals we accomplished as a team. I am extremely happy for the goals we set out to accomplish and how we did that as a team and helped to create a strong foundation for the program and future of the team.

Head coach Brian Barnes, commented "These three guys (seniors) are the foundations of the program and they have most certainly left their marks. They are the foundation of this year's success and they have helped to carry a torch for the returning player as they look to build upon this success. They have been leaders for us on and off the court and they are Sage basketball."

Deans remarked, "I am definitely honored and privileged for the chance to be a Sage Gator and for the opportunity to play college basketball here and for the opportunity to play for Coach Barnes."

Troy added, "I can't say enough about how much I appreciate the opportunity to play college basketball and to show my talents for Sage. Only about 10% of high school players have a chance to play basketball in college and I have been lucky enough to do this and to do this at Sage has been an amazing feat. Not only did I have a  chance for a high-quality education here, but an opportunity to earn a college degree that has changed my life."