Amherst's Season Ends with 68-63 Loss to DePauw in NCAA Sectional Semifinals

Amherst's loss to DePauw marked the final game in the great careers of the Lord Jeff senior captains. 

By Alex Kantor 

WHITEWATER, WI – The 14th-ranked Amherst College women's basketball team hung with the defending national champion DePauw University Tigers for all 40 minutes of the NCAA sectional semifinals, but the Lord Jeffs had their season come to a close with a 68-63 loss. Senior Shaina Pollack (Great Neck, NY) had a career-high 29 points for the Jeffs, who finish their incredible season with a 27-3 record.

Amherst knocked off Becker College and NESCAC rival Bowdoin College on the campus of Bridgewater State to advance to the “Sweet 16” this weekend, while DePauw defeated Denison and Washington University- St. Louis last weekend.

The Lord Jeffs started the game with a quick foul on defense before Pollack hit a three and then caused a turnover from DePauw. The Tigers responded with an 11-0 run to take a 12-5 lead before three and a half minutes had elapsed.

After a timeout from Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki, Pollack drained another three ball, only to have Cassie Pruzin answer with a triple of her own. The Jeffs turned up the pressure on defense and hit another pair of long balls to close the gap to 17-16.

Amherst tied the game at 21 apiece on a one-for-two trip to the line by junior guard Amanda Otieno (Gloucester, MA). After a tough defensive stand, Otieno gave the Jeffs the lead back on a three from the right wing.

With 4:56 to play, first-year Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) hit a pair from the free throw line to put Amherst up 32-28. After a pair of misses from the arc by the Jeffs, DePauw closed to within a point on free throws.

The Tigers took the lead back on a pair from the charity stripe by Andrea Travelstead with under three minutes to go in the half. Neither team scored for the next few possessions with DePauw looking to hold for the last shot. The Lord Jeffs caused a turnover to keep the score at 33-32 in the Tigers’ favor heading into the locker room.

Pollack finished the half leading all players with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, while Otieno scored six points for Amherst. DePauw was paced by nine points and six rebounds from Pruzin and seven points from Jenna Fernandez.

Despite falling behind by three points early in the second half, Amherst caught a break when DePauw leading-scorer Fernandez picked up her third foul and was sent to the bench.

Shaina Pollack had a career-high 29 points in her collegiate finale. 

The Tigers pushed to a 42-34 lead before Leyman made a pair at the line to cut the deficit to a half dozen with 15 minutes to play. Pollack made a huge pull-up jumper to close to within four points at 42-38 with 12:37 to go in the second half.

Amherst closed to two points at 43-41 on a three from the left wing by Pollack once again. Just before the midpoint of the second half, a three rimmed out that would have given Amherst the lead back. DePauw responded with a 9-2 run, sparked by a three-point play by Fernandez and a triple by Pruzin.

After an Amherst timeout, Pollack hit back-to-back buckets to close to five points. A free throw at the 7:32 mark brought Amherst back to within four points, and tied Pollack’s career-high with 23 points for the second straight game.

Senior tri-captiain Stefanie Rieff (Hinsdale, IL) tied the game with five minutes to play by making one of two at the line. Reiff set up a score by first-year Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) to take a 55-54 lead with 3:35 to go.

A strong play down low from Gwen Haehl with 1:15 to play put DePauw up 62-59. Amherst designed a play that came up empty, and then looked to pick up a defensive stop. Late in the shot clock, Pruzin made her way into the lane for a tough score.

With less than a minute left, the Jeffs trailed 64-59 and turned to Pollack. A missed jumper and an offensive board gave Pollack another opportunity to score, as she dropped home a lay-up in traffic to close to within three points.

Amherst desperately needed a turnover with only 19 seconds remaining. Tough defense in the back court forced the Tigers to call a timeout with 11.5 seconds to play, still under their own hoop. Pruzan took the inbounds pass and was sent to the line on an immediate foul with 9.5 seconds remaining. She made both free throws before Pollack went coast-to-coast for a lay-up with 4.4 seconds on the clock.

Pruzan took the inbound once again hit two free throws to put DePauw up 68-63 with 3.2 ticks left. Pollack and the Jeffs did not have enough time to score again, as their unbelievable tournament run and season came to a close.

Pollack finished the night with a game- and career-high 29 points in her final game with the Lord Jeffs. Leyman was the only other Amherst player in double figures with 10 points and eight boards. Pruzan led the Tigers with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Gwen Haehl and Fernandez scored 14 and 10, respectively, for DePauw.

Amherst’s season closes at 27-3, and goes down as the best in program history in virtually every category measured. Pollack ends her career with 894 points and the fourth highest career assist total in Amherst history (326), while Reiff finishes with 1,098 career points—the sixth highest total in program history. Also playing in her last game as a Lord Jeff was Anne-Claire Roesch (Westport, CT), who averaged 8.5 points per game in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to cap off a great senior season.