Lord Jeffs Heading Back to Final Four with 80-65 Win Over Babson

Team Final Four Fingers
The Amherst College Lord Jeffs are heading to the Final Four once again!

AMHERST, MA – The top-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team punched its ticket to the 2010 Final Four this evening with an 80-65 win over Babson College in the Sectional Finals at LeFrak Gymnasium. With the win, Amherst is heading back to the NCAA Division III’s final weekend for the second straight season, and second time in program history.

The Lord Jeffs earned a spot in this evening’s national quarterfinal game with a come-from-behind win over NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams College last night. Amherst erased a 15-point second-half deficit en route to a 71-66 win over the Ephs, after seeing Babson pull out a 71-68 overtime win over Gettysburg in the first Sectional Semifinal.

After Babson’s Nicole Wurdeman scored the opening basket of the game, Amherst took a 6-2 lead on back-to-back threes from Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) and Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL).  Babson tied the game at 6-6, but Amherst rookie Marcia Voigt (Skillman, NJ) sank a baseline runner for the Jeffs.

With 11:45 to play in the first half, Babson regained the lead 10-8 on a three-point play by Wurdeman. Amherst junior tri-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) briefly tied the game on a score from the left block, before Becky Bowman ripped away an offensive rebound for a put-back score. The Beavers took a 14-10 led when Kathleen King scored while getting fouled. King was unable to complete the three-point play, but drew a second foul on Atanga McCormick on the play.

Amherst took an 18-16 lead on a Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) triple, before junior Kristyn Dunleavy (E. Setauket, NY) hit a long ball from the right wing to put Amherst up 23-18. The Beavers were kept in the game by Amanda Grammel, who scored on back-to-back possessions for Babson. After an Amherst turnover on offense, Finucane stole the ensuing inbounds pass from Babson and scored to put the Jeffs up 25-20 with 6:14 to play.

With 5:45 to play in the first, Leyman pulled down an offensive rebound for a put-back on a missed three. One minute later, Amherst pulled down two offensive boards on one trip, and rotated the ball around to Dunleavy for a triple at the top of the key that opened up a 31-22 lead for the Jeffs.  After a Babson timeout, Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) hit a three from the right wing.

Amherst’s was able to take a 39-32 win into the halftime break, led by nine points from Finucane and six other players with at least five points. The Beavers were led by Kathleen King who scored 17 points to go along with five rebounds in the half.

Amherst opened up a 43-33 lead in just three minutes of the second half, but Babson responded with a three-point play the old fashioned way from Allanah Wynn. Amherst’s lead was closed to five points on an 11-6 run by Babson, capped by a drive and score by Jessica Aruda with 13:10 remaining.

GP Cutting Nets
Head Coach G.P. Gromacki has Amherst undefeated
and heading to National Semfinals again in 2010.

The margin shrank as small as three points, but Voigt hit a wide open three from the left corner on a baseline out-of-bounds play to put Amherst up 54-48. Following consecutive defensive stops, Atanga McCormick and Dunleavy scored for the Jeffs to open back up a 58-48 lead with 9:46 left.  The lead was cut to six points again, before Dunleavy hit her third triple of the game to put Amherst up 62-52 with 7:20 left in the second half.

Amherst used a missed front end of a one-and-one to push the ball the other way for a three from Voigt, stretching the lead to 67-52 with 6:22 remaining.  Babson went on a 5-0 run over the next two minutes, but Finucane scored in response. Stedman drilled a three, King hit a long two, and Leyman finished off a feed from Stedman to keep Amherst up 14 points with just three minutes left.

King made a pair of free throws, and after a scramble at half-court, took a steal in for a three-point play to cut the gap to 74-65. Amherst responded with a jumper from the right elbow by rookie Bridget Crowley (Hampden, MA). After exchanging missed free throws, Crowley tied up a loose ball to keep possession with Amherst on a jump ball. Babson caused a shot clock violation, but the clock wound past the one minute mark to help the Jeffs close in on the win.

Down the stretch, Amherst was able to make free throws and hold on for an 80-65 win. The Lord Jeffs placed five players in double-digits in scoring, led by Atanga McCormick with 15 points and Voigt with 13. Each Stedman, Finucane and Dunleavy scored 11 points apiece in the win. Babson was paced by a game-high 27 points and eight rebounds from King in the loss.

Amherst improves to 31-0 heading into next weekend’s Final Four in Bloomington, IL on the campus of Illinois-Wesleyan University. The Jeffs will face Washington U.-St. Louis, the team that knocked them out in the national semifinals last season, next Friday. Babson’s season comes to a close at 28-4, marking the end of the best season in program history.

For more information on the upcoming Final Four, please check the Amherst Athletics website in the next few days, or visit the championship website set up by Illinois Wesleyan and the NCAA.