Women’s Basketball Claims Second Ever Division III National Championship
Issue   |   Tue, 03/21/2017 - 22:10
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Ali Doswell ‘17 capped her Amherst career with a dominant 21-point showing against Tufts en route to being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

The Amherst women’s basketball won the Division III National Championship on March 17. The team posted four consecutive double-digit wins on their way to a 33-0 record, the program’s first undefeated season.

Ali Doswell ’17 was named Women’s Basketball College Association (WBCA) Division III Player of the Year and a D3hoops.com First Team All-American. After picking up NESCAC Coach of the Year honors the week prior, coach G.P. Gromacki was named both the Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coach of the Year and D3hoops.com Coach of the Year.

On Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, the purple and white dominated local opponents Babson and UMass-Dartmouth, winning each contest by more than 20 points and earning a trip to the team’s second consecutive NCAA Final Four.

After a close game in the semifinals against Christopher Newport, Amherst pulled away with a 66-51 win to advance to the Division III Championship on Saturday, March 18 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The purple and white then played NESCAC rival Tufts in the title game. The game marked the first time in NCAA Division III men’s and women’s basketball history that two teams from the same conference played each other in the championship game.

Tufts entered the game as the underdogs, having lost twice previously to Amherst. But in college athletics, beating a team — especially a good squad like the Jumbos — three times in one season is especially difficult. For the purple and white, however, the third game proved the easiest. Amherst thoroughly outplayed its NESCAC rival, defeating the Jumbos 52-29. The purple and white’s stellar defense led them to victory. Tufts shot just 24.4 percent from the floor, while Amherst limited Tufts leading scorer Melissa Baptista to five points on 1 for 14 shooting.

Offensively, Division III Player of the Year Doswell paced Amherst throughout. The senior went 7 of 15 from the floor in a 21-point effort while pitching in five rebounds and four steals.

“It felt incredible,” Doswell said. “I felt such pure happiness sitting next to my teammates and best friends watching the clock tick down until we were officially national champions.”

The first four minutes were scoreless, but Ali Doswell opened the scoring for Amherst with a layup at the 6:03 mark to give Amherst a 2-0 lead.

Following a pair of missed free throws by Tufts, Meredith Doswell ’17 hit a three-pointer to give Amherst a 5-0 advantage. From there, Amherst was able to hold its five-point advantage for the majority of the quarter. Emma McCarthy ’19 had three rebounds in the first 10 minutes, and the purple and white held Tufts to just two points in the quarter.

The second quarter got off to a quick start for Amherst, with Hannah Hackley ’18 scoring a layup at the 8:40 mark and then hitting a long two-point jumper following a steal by Jackie Nagle ’18.

Amherst extended its lead to 18-2 following a three and a two by Ali Doswell. Tufts’ Michela North, however, hit two jumpers to make the score 20-6 in favor of Amherst at the half. Ali Doswell finished with 11 first half points, while Meredith Doswell contributed five rebounds. Additionally, Jamie Renner ’17 dished out three assists as the purple and white shot 42.9% from the field in the first 20 minutes while Tufts was limited to just a 15.8 mark from the floor.

In the third quarter, Tufts pulled to within seven with a jumper and three-pointer, but a pair of free throws by McCarthy stopped the Jumbos’ run. Two more McCarthy foul shots and a fast-break basket by McCarthy pushed Amherst’s lead back to 26-15 with under five minutes to play in the period. After three quarters, Amherst held a 32-21 lead.

At the start of the fourth quarter, McCarthy knocked down two more free throws, Madeline Eck ’20 pulled in a solid defensive board and scored a layup on the ensuing possession, and Meredith Doswell picked a steal and converted a fast-break bucket to make it 38-21 with just under six minutes to play.

A Tufts jumper made the score 38-23, but Ali Doswell answered with a jumper of her own to keep the lead at 17 points. After Eck hit one of two from the line, Tufts put in a bucket to make it 49-25. Another Eck free throw gave the purple and white a 25-point advantage.

At this point, Gromacki subbed most of the Amherst lineup out and celebrations began for Amherst. The purple and white finished a solid night at the free throw line with Meredith Doswell swishing a pair to make it 52-25, and, with a few late consolation baskets by Tufts, Amherst emerged with an impressive win to cap off its season.

“Those last couple minutes of the game seemed to take forever but I literally could not stop smiling,” Ali Doswell said. The senior class of the Doswells and Renner leave Amherst with a 114-10 record at Amherst, laying a strong foundation for the program.