Amherst Escapes with 65-64 Win Over Colby

Sarah Leyman had a career-high 22
points and 11 rebounds.
AMHERST, MA – The fourth-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball rebounded from its first loss of the 2008-09 season by gutting out a 65-64 win over visiting NESCAC rival Colby College this afternoon. The Lord Jeffs improved to 19-1 (4-1 NESCAC) with the victory at LeFrak Gymnasium, while the White Mules dropped to 9-9 (1-4) with the defeat.

After starting slowly in a loss last night to Bowdoin, the Lord Jeffs jumped out of the gate with a little extra pep in their step against Colby. In just four minutes of action, Amherst opened up an 11-2 lead, forcing Colby to call an early timeout.

Amherst opened up a 19-12 lead with just under 11 minutes to play in the first half on a smooth post score from sophomore Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH). A Colby turnover resulted in another Leyman score on the block, before Julianne Kowalski responded for the Mules.

Colby closed the gap to just five points, before Leyman pulled down an offensive rebound and put home a lay-up for her fourth bucket of the half. She added a pair of free throws on the next possession to put the Jeffs up 25-16, and bring her scoring total up to a dozen points with over eight minutes remaining in the half.

Amherst’s lead grew to double-digits at 29-18 on a pair of Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) free throws with 4:40 to play in the half. With under a minute to play, sophomore Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) took a steal from end-to-end for a lay-up. Amherst forced a 24-second violation from the Mules on Colby’s final first-half possession, but was unable to score at the buzzer. With the exchange, Amherst took a 33-23 lead into the break, as Leyman finished the half with 13 points.

The Lord Jeffs started the second half right where they left off, as rookie Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) hit a three. The Amherst lead remained at 10 points, until Karlyn Adler scored for Colby with 13:21 to play, leaving the Mules trailing 41-33.

Colby’s Aarika Ritchie finished off a three-point play with just over eight and a half minutes to play, closing the deficit to just four points at 45-41. The Lord Jeffs responded by pounding the ball inside to Leyman, who earned a pair of free throws.

With 6:43 to play in the second half, Daigneault knocked down a pair of free throws to keep Amherst up 50-43. After a score and a free throw from Colby, Daigneault made another pair at the line with 4:50 to go, extending the lead to 52-46. Ritchie and Rachael Mack scored on back-to-back possessions for the Mules to close the gap to 52-50. Leyman responded with a tough three-point play, before senior Stacy Brossy (Lukachukai, AZ) made a pair of free throws to open up a 57-50 lead.

After another score from Leyman, Ritchie drove in for another three-point play to leave the Mules down 59-55. Amherst turned the ball over in the back court, and Colby’s Sam Allen made them pay with a jumper to close the margin to 59-57. With 58.4 to play, the Mules fouled Finucane after the inbound, and the rookie hit both for Amherst.

Colby missed a three, but a scramble on the rebound resulted in another Mule possession on a jump ball. Mack finished off a three-point play with 36 seconds to play to leave Amherst up just 61-60. Finucane was once again fouled immediately, and hit both free throws to hand the ball back to the Mules down three.

Mack made a pair of free throws, before Colby forced Amherst into a turnover with 18.5 seconds to play. With 13.9 to play, Kowalski scooped up a right-handed reverse to put Colby up 64-63. Amherst brought the ball up court and called a timeout with 8.3 to play, and would have a chance to shoot for the win. The Jeffs put the ball in play to Finucane, who was fouled going to the hoop. She made both free throws on the double-bonus to put Amherst up 65-64 with 6.4 to play.

Colby’s Adler went the length of the court, but Fiorentino forced a tough shot at the buzzer to let the Lord Jeffs escape with the win. At game’s end, Leyman and Daigneault each finished with double-doubles as Leyman had a career-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, with Daigneault adding 14 and 10. Finucane had 10 points, including an 8-for-8 performance at the line down the stretch. Allen had 15 and nine for Colby, while Mack and Kowalski combined for 25 and 13.

Amherst will have the full week off before hosting Bates and Tufts next weekend in NESCAC play. The Jeffs and Bobcats will tip-off Friday evening at 7 p.m., with the Jumbos coming to town on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game.