Women’s Basketball Defeats Tufts to Win NESCACs, Enters NCAA Tourney
Issue   |   Tue, 03/01/2016 - 22:20
Rob Mattson
The Amherst women’s basketball team, fresh off its NESCAC championship win, looks ahead to the first-round of the NCAA tournament this weekend.

The Amherst women’s basketball team took down Bowdoin last Saturday to advance to the final round of the NESCAC tournament. They then beat No. 1-seeded Tufts in a 50-49 win to claim the NESCAC championship title in Medford, Massachusetts.

After helping Amherst to their title by scoring a team-high 22 points and and going 8 for 8 from the free throw line in the championship game, Ali Doswell ’17 was named NESCAC player of the week.
With this championship, the purple and white, ranked No. 5 nationally, roll into the NCAA Division III tournament on a five-game winning streak and sporting a 26-1 record for the season.

The second-seeded purple and white pounded on the Polar Bears in the second half of Saturday’s match to secure an impressive 63-51 victory over third-seeded Bowdoin. The Polar Bears entered the night boasting the NESCAC’s third-highest scorer in Shannon Brady. The forward, who is averaging 16.5 points per game for the season, struggled against Amherst’s stingy defense. She finished with just six points on 3 for 11 shooting.

Despite a tough night from the field for leading scorer Ali Doswell, Amherst won on the back of a terrific performance from Hannah Hackley ’18. The sophomore led all players 23 points on just 13 shots, and also contributed seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks.

Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Jackie Nagle recorded a double-double with 10 points and a game-best 14 rebounds in the win.

The first half of the match was characterized by intense play on both sides. Bowdoin took the lead early, going up 6-0 in the first few minutes and maintaining a one-point lead for the majority of the first quarter, but the purple and white fought back to make it 12-9 by the time the first quarter whistle went off. Bowdoin again began to edge back in the first minutes of the second quarter, but a 58.3 percent shooting average from the field put Amherst back on top, making it 27-26 at halftime.

Junior Jaimie Renner, Hackley and Meredith Doswell ’17 led the purple and white in scoring in the third and fourth quarters, leading by 10 with just two minutes left to play. Meredith Doswell, who also recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards, drained two 3-pointers and Renner went three for four from the foul line to end the game at 63-51 in favor of Amherst to send the purple and white to the final round.

After falling to the Jumbos during the regular season, Amherst stepped into the championship match with much to prove. Tufts had shattered Amherst women’s basketball team’s record-breaking home win streak just a few weeks prior and gave the purple and white their only loss of the season.

The purple and white struggled against the Jumbos’ stingy defense, hitting just one three for the game and shooting 33.1 percent from the field. However, Amherst also showed why they boast the best defense in the conference, holding Tufts to just 33.9 shooting.

The purple and white found themselves behind early, trailing 18-10 after 10 minutes of play. The second quarter was more evenly matched, and senior Haley Zwecker, Meredith Doswell and Ali Doswell each chipped in to give Amherst a one-point lead at the halftime whistle.

The second half featured a more intense back-and-forth play and with two minutes left to play in regulation, the score was tied at 45. Meredith Doswell hit the first Amherst three of the contest and Hackley added a layup to make the score 50-47 in favor of the purple and white with a minute and a half left to play. The Jumbos were able to hit one more two-point jumper, but could not hit the winning basket to edge Amherst, and purple and white were victorious at the final whistle.

After the NESCAC Championship title win, Amherst will go on to appear in the NCAA tournament for the ninth year straight in hopes of winning a national title. The purple and white will face Eastern Connecticut State in their first-round game of the NCAA tournament this Friday, March 4, at Rowan University. Tip off is at 4:30 p.m.