Women's Hoops Wins Fourth-Straight NESCAC Title
Issue   |   Tue, 02/26/2013 - 21:40
Nialah Hope ’15, Public Affairs Office
The women's basketball took home its fourth straight NESCAC title after a win over Williams.

Women’s basketball claimed the NESCAC championship in decisive fashion over the weekend, beating Bowdoin 60-45 before using 19 second-half points from Marcia Voigt ’13 to triumph over Williams, 53-38, in the title game. With the win, the fifth-ranked Lord Jeffs (26-1) captured their fourth NESCAC title in five years, avenging their sole loss earlier this month in Williamstown and assuring themselves of an automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Bowdoin (14-11) came into their semifinal game at LeFrak Gymnasium riding high after stunning first-seeded Tufts in quarterfinal play, but Amherst quickly opened up a 10-point gap that the Polar Bears would never close. Megan Roberston ’15 got things started before Voigt hit two straight three-pointers to extend the lead to 8-0. Minutes later, a Jasmine Hardy ’13 three-pointer made it 13-4.

The teams traded a pair of baskets before cooling off offensively, with a Cheyenne Pritchard ’16 layup bringing the lead back to eight, 19-11, after a three-minute scoreless drought. Bowdoin wouldn’t go away, however, and strung together a couple of three-pointers to cut to the lead to 5, 22-17. That was as close as the Polar Bears would get, as they had seven turnovers and just two points in the last 7:56 of the half. The Lord Jeffs took advantage, as Savannah Holness ’15 scored 10 of the team’s final 12 points en route to a 32-19 halftime lead.

Bowdoin started the second half the stronger team and got within nine after 2:39 of action, only to see Robertson go to work inside with two straight layups. A Voigt steal then led to a transition layup by Bridget Crowley ’13 that put the team up 13 with 14:40 left.

Bowdoin stemmed the tide with two quick baskets and then called timeout with the lead in single digits. It was Amherst, however, that benefitted, scoring six of the next eight points before a four-minute dry spell for both teams. The Lord Jeffs found their shooting touch first with baskets on consecutive possessions, making it 50-33 with 6:15 left. Bowdoin managed to hit one of two free throws before Robertson put the game out of reach with two more baskets, the second coming with 4:18 left.

Voigt and Robertson paced the team with 14 points each, with Voigt adding eight assists. Holness added 12 points off the bench, while Crowley narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.

Sunday’s championship game was a defensive struggle early on, with just 13 total points in the first 10 minutes, although Williams had put up 39 first-half points in the team’s earlier meeting. Robertson provided the Lord Jeffs with some points in the paint by scoring two straight baskets, the second coming on a nice reverse move. Robertson would later grab an offensive rebound and get fouled, hitting both foul shots to make it 14-11 with 4:54 to go. Each team continued to struggle, but Hardy hit a deep three for the Lord Jeffs with under a minute remaining in the half, and a nice Williams drive on the other end made it 18-17 in favor of Amherst at halftime, with each team shooting around 20 percent from the field.

What had been a tense game opened up in the second half. Both teams set the tone early on, as Robertson opened the scoring with a strong post move before Jennie Harding answered with a three on the other end. Williams strung together four points to take the lead before Robertson hit a jumper to answer, and the next time down the court Amherst retook the lead as Voigt hit a deep three with the shot clock winding down.

In what would prove to be the game’s decisive moment, Robertson picked up her fourth foul moments later on a questionable offensive foul off the ball. Holness came in off the bench as coach G.P. Gromacki stuck with his typical six-woman rotation, and a Williams layup with 15:28 left gave the Ephs a 26-25 lead.

It was at this point that Voigt, who had been 1-11 before the previous three, combined with Holness to take over the game offensively. Voigt turned the ball over only to steal it right back in the backcourt and score on the ensuing possession, and once again after a Williams traveling violation to put the Lord Jeffs up three.

Amherst hounded the Ephs defensively from there on out, using active hands and relentless pursuit to force 13 more turnovers and crashing the boards on both ends, grabbing nine second-half offensive rebounds while not allowing even one. With Robertson sitting the Ephs frequently had a significant height mismatch on offense but struggled to take advantage as the Lord Jeffs played strong help defense.

Holness sparked the offense with her energy, as she grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback and then caused a turnover on the other end, getting the ball back on the fast break and drawing a foul. After two Williams free throws cut the lead to 32-30, Holness recorded another offensive rebound and putback to keep pace.

Voigt converted an athletic steal and layup to stretch the lead with 11:08 remaining. Holness picked up her fourth foul seconds later but stayed in the game, and a couple of minutes later Voigt once again picked Williams’ pocket, this time finishing with a sly slow-developing move through the heart of the Ephs’ defense. A wild Williams shot fell short on the other end, and Voigt found Holness down low to make the lead eight and force a Williams timeout with 7:44 left.

There was no stopping the Lord Jeffs now, as a steal from Crowley led to a three-pointer from Voigt. Williams finally stopped the bleeding but had no answer for Voigt, who promptly converted a three-point play. Williams scored just two points over the last six minutes, sealing the Amherst victory.

Voigt ended up with 21 points and five steals, with Robertson and Holness contributing 12 and 10 points, respectively. The Lord Jeffs shot 46.7 percent in the second half against a Williams defense that led the NESCAC by allowing opponents to shoot just 28.4 percent during the regular season.

The team will open NCAA tournament play at home on Friday against Farmingdale State, and will play again on Saturday if they advance.