For the second straight season, the Amherst women’s basketball team won the NESCAC championship.
The purple and white hosted fifth-seeded Colby in Lefrak Gymnasium for the conference semifinals on Saturday. Colby’s only lead of the game came early on in the back and forth first five minutes of the game.
After the Mules pulled ahead 8-6, Amherst surged, scoring 11 unanswered points to finish the first quarter with a 17-8 lead.
Hannah Hackley ’18 and Emma McCarthy ’19 led the charge early. Each contributed six points in the opening 10 minutes.
Although Amherst struggled offensively in the second quarter, the purple and white kept up the stifling defensive pressure.
In the frame, McCarthy added three more points at the foul line, while Jackie Nagle ’18 and Natalie Nardella ’20 had a bucket and a free throw each.
However, Colby only managed six points, making the halftime score 26-14 in favor of the hosts.
The purple and white then came alive in the third quarter, putting 19 points on the board, including two three-pointers from Ali Doswell ’17. In the last quarter, long-range buckets from both Nardella and Maeve McNamara ’19 secured the Amherst win.
The final score was 53-33, and top-seeded Amherst advanced to the NESCAC tournament final for the ninth time in program history.
On Sunday at noon, the fight for the title against second-seeded Tufts commenced.
In the previous game, Tufts eked out a 49-44 win over third-seeded Bowdoin, earning a spot in the championship.
The last time these two teams met, Amherst gave Tufts their first and only loss of their season, beating them 36-35 in a tense game at Tufts on Feb. 4.
The first quarter was a defensive battle with Amherst slightly edging the Jumbos 7-6. McCarthy continued her stellar play on the weekend, scoring five of the purple and white’s seven points.
In the second quarter, however, Tufts took control, only allowing the home team to score three points while notching 10 of their own. Tufts’ Melissa Baptista netted two three-pointers to give the Jumbos a 16-10 lead going into halftime.
The momentum shifted again in the third, with Amherst going on a 9-0 run after Tufts notched the first two points of the frame, giving the hosts a 19-18 lead with six minutes left to play in the quarter.
After the Jumbos briefly retook the lead, Amherst closed the quarter with a very impressive 12-2 run and finished the stanza with a 31-22 lead.
McCarthy remained hot, notching five more points, while Ali Doswell added 11 points in the quarter.
In the last frame, Tufts, led by a trio of threes from Baptista, narrowed Amherst’s lead. The Jumbos pulled within four on two occasions, but the purple and white perservered.
Ali Doswell answered Baptista’s second three with a jumper to make it 40-34, and Jaimie Renner ’17 hit one free throw with 11 seconds on the clock to make it 41-34, sealing the victory for Amherst. Baptista hit her final trey as time expired, making the final score 41-37.
In addition to the purple and white’s remarkable achievement of a sixth NESCAC title in eight years, McCarthy was also rewarded for her dominant individual play, garnering NESCAC player of the week honors.
With the pair of impressive wins, Amherst concluded the non-NCAA portion of the season with an unblemished 27-0 mark.
The purple and white will begin its road to March Madness glory this Friday, Mar. 3, when the team takes on Regis (Mass.) at 7 p.m. in Lefrak Gymnasium.