Amherst Reaches "Sweet 16" For Third Straight Season With 76-49 Win

Lem Atanga McCormick led Amherst with 20 points in
the win over Southern Maine.

AMHERST, MA – The top-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team tied a program record for wins in a season this afternoon, while also advancing to the Round of 16 in the 2010 NCAA Division III Tournament with a 76-49 win over the University of Southern Maine. Amherst led 42-19 at the half, and held off any comeback attempts from the Huskies to cruise into the Sectionals next weekend.

Amherst advanced to today’s Second Round with a 68-47 win over MCLA last night, while the Huskies topped RPI in the early game. With today’s victory, Amherst tied last year’s program record for single-season wins with 29, and also earns a spot in the Round of 16 for the third straight season.

Amherst started the game on a 7-0 run in the first 1:13, forcing Southern Maine head coach Gary Fifield to call an early timeout. Sophomore Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) knocked down a three, then scored inside, before Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) hit a layup in transition to force the timeout. At the 16:34 mark, Atanga McCormick hit a jumper from the right elbow, giving the Lord Jeffs an 11-1 lead. With the score, Amherst was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, while Southern Maine did not make their first field goal until the following possession.

Atanga McCormick hit her fourth straight shot to start the game, once again from behind the arc, at the 13:44 mark. The triple put Amherst up 14-3 and forced another Southern Maine timeout. After the timeout, Huskie first-year Curran Leighton missed a three, before Finucane buried a triple of her own. Junior tri-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) got into the scoring mix with a three-point play the old fashioned way, putting Amherst up 20-3 with 12:22 remaining.

Amherst’s lead grew to 22-4, but the Huskies responded with a 6-0 run as the Jeff shooters cooled off a bit. The margin shrank to a dozen at 24-12, but Amherst responded with a 9-2 run of its own to take control. Following a Southern Maine score, Amherst ended the half on another 9-0 run to take a commanding 42-19 lead into the break. At the half, Amherst was led by 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting by Atanga McCormick, and 10 points from Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA). Leighton paced the Huskies with eight points and six rebounds in the frame.

The first nine minutes of the second half saw Amherst add just three points to its lead, but Leyman gained position inside for a score at the 10:58 mark to put the Jeffs up 57-29. Southern Maine went shot for shot with Amherst in the second half, with head coach G.P. Gromacki playing every player in uniform in the second half.  As the final minute of the game made its way onto the scoreboard, Amherst dribbled out yet another convincing win. The Lord Jeffs out-scored the Huskies just 34-30 in the second half, but after shooting nearly 60% from the field in the first half, simply had to hold on for the win.

At game’s end, Amherst was led by 20 points from Atanga McCormick, while Stedman added 10 points and seven boards. Amherst also got strong contributions from Marcia Voigt (Skillman, NJ) off the bench with nine points and eight rebounds and from Leyman with nine points of her own. Finucane had another solid all-around performance, adding seven points, five assists and two steals in the win. The Huskies were led by Leighton’s 12 points in the loss.

Amherst will await word tomorrow morning on the location of next weekend’s Sectionals, and now sits just two wins away from a second-straight trip to the Final Four.