Jeffs Advance to NESCAC Semis With 57-36 Win Over Wesleyan

Caroline Stedman led Amherst in scoring in today's
NESCAC Quarterfinal win over Wesleyan.

AMHERST, MA – The No. 1 seed Amherst College women’s basketball team opened up the 2010 NESCAC Championship this afternoon against visiting No. 8 seed Wesleyan University at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass. The Lord Jeffs, ranked No. 1 in the nation by both the and ESPN Coaches polls, advanced to next weekend’s semifinal round of play with a 57-36 win over the Cardinals.

Today’s victory improves Amherst to 25-0 on the year, and is the third win this season over the Cardinals, who end the year with an 8-15 mark. In the regular season, Amherst picked up an 80-53 win at Wesleyan Jan. 6, before earning an 89-49 conference home win Jan. 15. Today’s result is the most important of the three wins for the Jeffs, who will now host the final weekend of conference tournament play next Saturday and Sunday.

After five minutes of action, Amherst held on to just a 4-2 lead, but Wesleyan’s Erin Gold (New Hope, PA) drained a three from the left wing to put the Cardinals up one point. The Lord Jeffs responded by going inside to junior co-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) for a strong score in the post.  Amherst got back-to-back scores from Marcia Voigt (Skillman, NJ) and Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) to open up an 11-7 lead, before another Renner score forced Wesleyan into calling a timeout.

With 8:34 to play, Amherst’s lead grew to 17-9 on consecutive baskets from Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA). After another Wesleyan timeout, Stedman drilled a three from the right corner, before Renner found Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) for a reverse lay-up to stretch the lead to 22-9 with 7:15 remaining in the half.

After four straight points from Wesleyan’s Kendra Harris (St. Paul, MN) closed the gap back to 10 points, Kristyn Dunleavy (E. Setauket, NY) made a three for Amherst to double-up the Cardinals at 26-13. Wesleyan finished the half on a 6-0 run capped by a McKinley Tennant (Swampscott, MA) three at the buzzer from beyond half court. The long triple from Tennant sent the Cardinals into the break trailing 30-21. At the half, Stedman led all players with 11 points, while Voigt added half a dozen for the Jeffs. Wesleyan was paced by six points from Harris and five points from Gold.

Through five minutes of second-half play, the Cardinals were unable to cut into Amherst’s lead any further. With 10 minutes remaining in the second half, Amherst’s lead sat at 15 points, but a Stedman free throw and a put-back by Renner two minutes later extended the margin to 49-31. The Amherst lead passed the 20-point mark on a Renner baseline jumper with 6:07 remaining to leave Amherst up 52-31.

Gold made a three for the Cardinals with just under five minutes remaining, but Amherst refused to let Wesleyan back into the game. Voigt dribbled out the clock in the final half minute, as Amherst held on for a 57-36 win.

Stedman led all players with 16 points, while Leyman added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Renner had a great effort with 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and four steals. Sam LaCroce (Prospect, CT) was the only Wesleyan player to reach double figures in scoring with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Amherst will host No. 6 seed Bates College next Saturday at 2 p.m. in one NESCAC semifinal, with Bowdoin facing Colby in the other semifinal game at 4 p.m. The 2010 NESCAC Championship title game will be Sunday at 12 p.m. in Amherst.