Jeffs Defeat WCSU to Win Amherst Tip-Off Tournament

Junior captains Sarah Leyman and Jaci Daigneault accepted the championship trophy for Amherst.

AMHERST, MA – The 2nd-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team played host to visiting Western Connecticut State University in the 2009 Tip-Off Tournament Championship Game. Amherst held a 42-29 halftime lead and held on for an 85-71 victory to win the season opening tournament for the second straight season.

After three minutes of action, Amherst trailed 7-5 after a put-back by junior co-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH). After West Conn’s lead grew to 11-5, Amherst sophomore point guard Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) found junior co-captain and All-American Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) on back-to-back possessions for scores. With 15:44 to play in the first, West Conn’s lead shrank to 11-9, forcing the Colonials to use a timeout.

With 13:43 to play, Amherst took its first lead of the game at 14-13 on the three by sophomore Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) from the right wing. Finucane added a three ball with 10:37 remaining to put Amherst up 19-17, before rookie Bridget Crowley (Hampden, MA) pulled down an offensive rebound and scored for Amherst on the next possession. Crowley found Finucane on a broken play with 7:35 remaining, and the second-year guard got a friendly bounce on a three-pointer to put the Jeffs up 24-19.
After a score by West Conn’s Sonya Perkins, Karli Spera scored on a drive to the left for the fourth time in the half to close the gap to 24-23. Daigneault put Amherst back up 28-23 on a score from the left block, and the lead grew to 33-25 when Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) scored after a missed free throw with 2:23 remaining.

Amherst’s lead grew to 37-25, before Heather Lee returned to the court with two fouls and hit a three from the right corner. On the final possession of the first half, Amherst went to Stedman in the right corner for a three that opened up a 42-29 lead. At the half, Daigneault led all players with 10 points, while Finucane and Stedman had eight apiece for Amherst. Spera had eight points to lead the Colonials, while Lee chipped in with a half dozen in just four minutes.

Early in the second half Amherst was able to draw a third foul on each Spera, Teel and Katie Moffo, all while opening up a 50-33 lead. The Colonials responded with a three ball from Nicole Eanniello to keep the game within reach of one scoring run. After a West Conn timeout, Amherst’s Stedman scored back-to-back layups in transition after a pair of steals to put Amherst up 56-36 with 13:46 to play.

The Amherst lead stayed at 20 points on a three from Kristyn Dunleavy (E. Setauket, NY) with five minutes to play, putting Amherst up 76-56. West Conn’s Lee hit a pair of three points close together, and was fouled on the second en route to a rare four-point play to close the gap to 81-65.

That was as close as the Colonials would get though, as Amherst closed out the game for an 85-71 win.  Daigneault and Stedman led all players with 19 points each, while Finucane was impressive with 11 points, seven boards and nine assists, and sophomore Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) added a dozen points. Lee and Teel paced West Conn with 15 points apiece, while Perkins and Spear added 13 apiece.

Joining Staten Island’s Kristen Panariello and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Danielle Michlovsky on the All-Tournament Team from West Conn were Lee and Teel. Also earning All-Tournament honors from Amherst were Daigneault and Stedman, with Daigneault taking home the M.V.P. award.

Amherst improves to 2-0 with the win, while West Conn falls to 2-1. The Lord Jeffs will travel to face Mt. Holyoke College on Tuesday evening before breaking for Thanksgiving.