Amherst Leads Rochester Start to Finish for 56-44 Win in Third Place Game

Third Place

Amherst made its second appearance in the Final Four, and will return to campus
with a win today to finish as the third place team in Division III.

BLOOMINGTON, IL – The Amherst College women’s basketball team took on the University of Rochester in the Third Place Game in the 2010 NCAA Division III Final Four at the Shirk Center, on the campus Illinois Wesleyan University campus in Bloomington, Ill. Amherst scored the first 11 points of the game, and led wire-to-wire for a 56-44 win. The victory improves Amherst’s record to a program-best 32-1, as the Lord Jeffs return every player on the roster for next season.

Amherst’s undefeated season was spoiled in the National Semifinals yesterday with an 86-75 overtime loss to Washington University in St. Louis.  The Lord Jeffs held a 10 point halftime lead, but were forced to overtime by the Bears. Amherst eventually came up short against Wash. U. in the Final Four for the second straight season. Following today’s game, Wash. U. topped Hope College 65-59 for the 2010 National Championship.

This afternoon, Amherst started the game off with a three pointer from straight away by sophomore All-American Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA). After a jumper and a triple by Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) and a three from Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL), Amherst had opened up an 11-0 lead by the 15:53 mark. For the second straight game, Amherst built an early double-digit lead. The Yellowjackets finally got on the board with an Amy Woods layup with 15:19 to play.

Amherst got a triple from rookie Maria Voigt (Skillman, NJ) with 11:54 to play, putting Amherst up 17-4, before Rochester’s Kristyn Wright responded with a three-point play the old fashioned way. The Yellowjackets closed the gap to 19-13, before Stedman found Atanga McCormick on the break for a jump-stop floater in the lane. Amherst’s lead was cut to 21-18 on a Jessica Alwardt three from the left wing with 7:16 to play, forcing Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki to call a timeout.

Leyman NCAA semi
Junior co-captain Sarah Leyman
was named to the Final Four
All-Tournament Team.

Voigt pushed the ball on the break up to classmate Bridget Crowley (Hampden, MA), who stopped in the lane before handing the ball back to trailing Voigt for a layup. Voigt was fouled on the play, but made both free throws to put Amherst up 24-19 with 4:17 left in the first half. With 2:30 to play, Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) took a steal at the three point line on defense, and went all the way for a layup.

Heading into the half, Amherst stretched its lead back to double-digits at 32-21 with Voigt, Fiorentino and Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) leading the charge. At the break, Leyman had a team-high six points, while Atanga McCormick, Finucane, Daigneault and Voigt had five points apiece. Kristyn Wright and Alwardt led the Yellowjackets with six points apiece.

In the first five minutes of the second half, Amherst held onto its lead, and after an Alwardt triple with 14:02 remaining led 37-28. Alwardt scored on a drive down the lane, but Stedman responded with a transition score. Amherst pushed the margin to 13 points at 43-30 on a short baseline jumper by Atanga McCormick, forcing the Yellowjackets to call for a timeout with 10:53 remaining.

Alwardt banked in a three, but Daigneault made a pair of free throws and Voigt hit a spot-up triple to push Amherst’s to 48-33. The Lord Jeffs poked the ball loose on the next Rochester possession, and Fiorentino chased it down the sideline to allow Gromacki to call for a timeout.

With just under seven minutes to play, Voigt drove all the way down the right side for a layup to put Amherst up 50-35. Atanga McCormick got her own rebound for a put-back with 3:55 left to put Amherst up 54-40.  Gromacki slowed things down with a timeout at the 3:02 mark, the Jeffs leading 54-42.

Neither team scored following the stoppage until Leyman got a friendly bounce on a jumper from the elbow with 1:35 remaining. The Lord Jeffs did not allow a field goal over the final 5:48 of the second half, holding on for a 56-44 win. In the end, Atanga McCormick had a team-high 13 points with eight boards. Leyman added 10 and seven, while Daigneault returned to form with seven points and nine rebounds. Finucane dished out six assists with no turnovers to go alongside seven points. Rochester was led by a game-high 18 points from Alwardt, while no other player scored more than six.

The victory ended the winningest season in Amherst basketball history (32-1/.970 winning percent), and gave the women’s basketball team its finest result (third overall). Additionally, Amherst set a program record for scoring average (75.4 ppg), while Leyman finished the season above both the 900-point and 600-rebound marks. For her play this weekend, Leyman was named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team.

You can watch video clips from this weekend's Final Four, including Amherst's post-game press conference with coach Gromacki, Sarah Leyman and Lem Atanga McCormick. To visit the team's video blog, click here.