Women’s Basketball Falls to Jumbos in NESCAC Finals
Issue   |   Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:59

The Amherst women’s basketball team fell short of another NESCAC title, losing to Tufts 62-46 in the NESCAC Championship this past Sunday. Even with the loss, the Jeffs will continue their season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after receiving an at-large bid. Despite the gut-wrenching end to the regular season, Amherst still proved to be a team to watch with their decisive victory over Bowdoin in the NESCAC Semifinals.

The Jeffs took on the Polar Bears on Saturday at Tufts, and walked away with a narrow 45-42 triumph. The game was a tight contest throughout, with the neither team’s lead larger than six points. Despite turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, Bowdoin remained on top, 20-16, going into the intermission.

The Jeffs finally took the lead 14 minutes into the second half 26-24 on a Marley Giddins ’16 layup. Amherst continued to build a cushion, despite a strong individual effort from Anna Prohl of the Polar Bears.

The Jeffs continued to lead by one-possession for the last 10 minutes of the game.

“On Saturday our defense held at crucial moments especially in the second half,” said Coach Gromacki.

The Jeffs had an answer to every comeback attempt mounted by Bowdoin and ended up hanging on to win by three points. While first-year Ali Doswell led all scorers with 15 points, the Jeffs also saw strong performances from Giddins, Hannah Peterson ’17, Jaimie Renner ’17 and Savannah Holness ’15. Giddins contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, while Peterson had eight points and six boards. Both Renner and Holness had four steals and blocks.

“Saturday was a very competitive game,” said co-captain Cheyenne Pritchard ’16. “Bowdoin played extremely hard, and ultimately our defense and some key rebounds won the game for us. They have a lot size so we had to adjust our play, and we did what we had to do to win.”

Coming off a well-deserved win on Saturday, the Jeffs could not find their rhythm in Sunday’s contest.

“We were excited to play for a NESCAC championship, but could not get our shots to fall and missed some defensive assignments,” added Gromacki.

The Jeffs lost to Tufts during the regular season as well, so this was especially heartbreaking. Although getting off to a fast start with a Pritchard three-pointer, the Jumbos of Tufts answered with an immediate 6-0 run, led by Liz Moynihan.

After tying the score at 10 midway through the first half, the Jumbos continued their momentum and went on an 11-1 run. The Jumbos added to their lead right at the start of the second half with another 8-3 run, forcing Amherst down 12 points. With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Ali Doswell brought the team back within 11 after finding the long range. A Haley Zwecker ’16 two-pointer and a Doswell free throw further reduced the margin to eight points, but this was not enough to stop Tufts, as they responded with a 12-2 run in the last few minutes of the game to halt the comeback attempt.

Ultimately, Tufts’ defense carried them to victory, as they only shot 37.3 percent from the floor. The Jeffs were limited to a 28.6 percent shooting percentage. The Jumbos also out-battled Amherst on rebounds and second chance points in the paint.

“Tufts is well coached and they play as a unit,” said Pritchard. “There are things we practiced and didn’t do, so we know we can play with them if we get another chance. Obviously we wanted to win Sunday, but our ultimate goal is still here. We are looking forward to this weekend and are extremely motivated — it’s do or die now.”

After falling short of their fifth straight conference title, Amherst will look to get back into a rhythm starting this weekend against Springfield College. Despite losing over the weekend, the Jeffs still played exceptionally well in the regular season and have the potential to go far in the NCAA Tournament. In off-the-court news, star junior Megan Robertson was home this weekend to get knee surgery. Her absence has been a major adjustment for the Jeffs, but the young team has managed to step up fairly consistently throughout the season. Although she could not be a physical presence for her team, Robertson still had valuable input as the Jeffs move forward.

“I think we learned a lot this weekend from both games,” said Robertson. “We were able to persevere throughout a tight game on Saturday and gain experience under pressure. As a team, we did not perform at our best on Sunday, and I think that we were able to learn some valuable lessons that will help us as we head into NCAAs. It will definitely provide motivation as well.”

The Jeffs will face Springfield College (who enter play with a 17-11 record) on Saturday, March 8. If both the Jeffs and Jumbos win their first three games in the NCAA Tournament, the pair of NESCAC rivals would be on track to square off in the National Quarterfinals. Another familiar NESCAC foe, Williams (20-5) could meet Amherst in the National Semifinals if both teams advance that far.

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