Jeffs Claim NESCAC Title with 69-54 Win Over Colby

The Amherst College Lord Jeffs won the second NESCAC title in program history.

AMHERST, MA – The top-seeded Amherst College women’s basketball team played host to No. 2 seed Colby College this afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium in the title game of the 2010 NESCAC Championship. Amherst stretched an eight-point halftime lead into a 15-point win to claim the program’s second NESCAC Championship in the past three years.

With the win, Amherst joins the 2003-04 Bowdoin women's squad as the only teams in NESCAC basketball history to complete the regular season undefeated before winning the conference title. The Lord Jeffs (27-0/9-0 NESCAC) earn an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament and will likely host all the way to the Final Four should they remain in the field. Colby (23-4/7-2) will likely receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but will have to wait until tomorrow’s selection show to confirm that.

Amherst started the game with a score inside by Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) on its first possession, and then took a 4-0 lead as Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) found junior co-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) for a transition layup. Colby responded with a free throw and then a post score from Julianne Kowalski. Samantha Allen hit a step-back three to give Colby an 8-6 lead, but Atanga McCormick scored in the post and Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) hit a three at the 15-minute mark to put Amherst on top, 11-8.

The Lord Jeffs opened up a 17-9 lead on an 11-1 scoring run capped by a nice scoop shot in the lane by Marcia Voigt (Skillman, NJ) with 13:07 remaining. Diana Manduca closed the gap to 17-11 with 12:38 to play, and neither team scored until Manduca made a pair of free throws at the 10:05 mark. Stedman ended Amherst’s scoring drought on the next trip, draining a long three from straight away.

A put-back by Jil Vaughan with 8:58 remaining cut Amherst’s lead to 20-17, but Finucane responded with another triple for the Jeffs. After a stop on the defensive end, Voigt got out on the break for a lay-up to put Amherst’s lead back up to 25-17 with 8:04 to play in the first half. Colby head coach Lori Gear McBride called a timeout following the score, but Voigt hit a turnaround jumper as the shot clock was winding down to keep Amherst’s offense going. With 6:35 left in the half, Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) made a pair at the charity stripe to put Amherst up by 12, 29-17.

With just 1:04 to play in the half, Alison Cappelloni made a three from the left wing to close the gap to 34-26. The bucket proved to be the final score of the half for either team, as the Jeffs took an eight-point lead into the break. At the half, Atanga McComick led all players with nine points and eight rebounds, while Finucane had eight points for the Jeffs. Colby was led by Cappelloni with seven points in the stanza.

Team captains Jaci Daigneault '11 and Sarah Leyman '11 accepted the NESCAC Championship trophy with Amherst president Tony Marx (far left) and the conference's assistant director, Dan Fisher (far right).

Colby started the second half with a 4-0 run, closing the gap to 34-30 early on. After a pair of free throws by Stedman gave Amherst a six-point lead, Finucane made what has become her trademark play by diving on a loose ball and calling for a timeout.  After Colby was able to gain a second possession on an offensive rebound as the shot clock was expiring, Finucane once again poked the ball loose, hit the floor and called for a timeout.

After seven and a half minutes of play in the second half, each team had scored just four points in the frame.  Jacky McLoughlin ended the scoring drought with just the second field goal of the half on a three pointer with 11:59 remaining. Amherst’s first field goal of the half did not come until the 11:10 mark, as Leyman scored on a nice post move.

With 9:41 remaining, Stedman drained her second three of the game to put the Jeffs back up by 11, 45-34. After a turnover by the Mules, Voigt hit a three from the exact same spot on the left wing, before putting Amherst up 50-36 on a strong drive down the lane in traffic.

Colby responded with an 8-0 scoring run, with scores coming from four different players. Around the six-minute mark, both Stedman and Leyman picked up their fourth fouls for Amherst, putting the Jeffs in serious foul trouble as they tried to hold off another Colby comeback.  Less than a minute later, Atanga McCormick was whistled for her fourth foul.

With 4:50 remaining, Finucane hit a three from straight away after circling the entire half of the floor on the offensive end. The triple put the Jeffs up 55-46, and finally put a stop to Colby’s comeback for a moment. After a block on the defensive end, Leyman scored inside to put Amherst up 57-46 with 3:02 left.

Amherst scored back-to-back buckets following a timeout, but Aarika Ritchie answered with a three from the left side with 1:35 left to leave the score at 61-49 in Amherst’s favor. Finucane made a pair of free throws three seconds later, and then knocked down another pair after a steal by Leyman with 1:19 left.

In the final minute of the game, Colby was forced to foul as Amherst made free throws and dribbled out the clock for a 69-54 win. Finucane finished the day with a game-high 21 points on a nearly perfect 5-for-6 shooting performance, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and 8-for-8 at the line. Stedman (12), Voigt (11) and Leyman (10) all hit double-figures in scoring for Amherst as well, while Cappelloni and Ritchie combined for 24 points for Colby.