Amherst Outlasts Williams on Senior Day, 66-61

Shannon Finucane had 14 points in the win.
AMHERST, MA – The 9th-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team played host to NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams College this evening in the Lord Jeffs’ final regular-season home game of 2008-09. Amherst rallied after training nearly the entire game for a 66-61 win to improve to 22-1 (7-1 NESCAC) on the year.

Prior to this evening’s tip, Amherst honored the four members of the team playing in their final regular season home game. Seniors Susannah Ludwig (Charlottesville, VA), Stacy Brossy (Lukachukai, AZ), Yasmine Harik (New York, NY) and Amanda Otieno (Gloucester, MA) were each brought out to center court with their parents before the start of the game.

After just five minutes of play, Williams opened up a 10-4 lead before Amherst went to the bench. Over the next few minutes, Amherst was able to climb back into the game, cutting the margin to four points, as Otieno took a steal the length of the court for a lay-in.

With 10 minutes remaining, Amherst was trailing 20-16 after a put-back by rookie Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL). Eph guard Jill Greenberg responded for Williams with a bank-shot three from the left wing. Greenberg was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce in the Amherst backcourt, putting the Ephs up 27-16 on an easy lay-up, before Amherst’s Courtney Long (Norwich, CT) drilled a three. On the next possession, Long finished off a three-point play to cut the gap to 27-22.

Long found Atanga McCormick in transition with just under seven minutes remaining, cutting the Eph lead to three points. With 5:57 to play in the half, first-year Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) knocked down a jumper from the elbow to leave Amherst down just one point.

At the 2:30 mark, the Williams lead had swelled back to 34-26, before Finucane knocked down a three from the left corner for the Lord Jeffs. The bucket sparked a 7-0 Amherst run, and with 58.9 seconds to play, Finucane dove on a loose ball and called timeout. Neither team scored down the stretch, sending Amherst to the locker room down only 34-33.

The first half ended with a combined 28 turnovers, as neither side was able to settle down after a fast start. Greenberg scored 14 points to lead all players, while Long led the Jeffs with eight points.

After a Greenberg lay-up put Williams up six points early in the second half, Fiorentino hit another three from the left wing to close the gap to 43-40. Williams responded with consecutive scores to open back up a 47-40 lead.

Daigneault answered for Amherst with a pull-up three from the top of the key, before Finucane scored on a tough left-handed runner. Rookie Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) hit a jumper from the left elbow to tie the game 47-47, before Chessie Jackson and Daigneault traded interior scores.

Williams held a 52-51 lead for over two minutes, before Ana Rodriguez-Villa scored for the Ephs. Long saved a loose ball from going out of bounds, and found Finucane for a three to tie the game 54-54 with 4:58 to play. Daigneault scored with 3:29 to play, putting Amherst ahead 56-54. The lead was the first for the Lord Jeffs since a 4-3 lead with 17:59 to play in the first half.

After an Amherst timeout, Daigneault scored again to put the Jeffs up four points, 58-54. A defensive stop for the Lord Jeffs led to another Finucane drive and score with just over two minutes remaining. Kelsey Ham hit a deep two-point jumper for Williams, before Long answered with a jumper of her own.

Amherst held a six-point lead as the game went into the final minute, forcing Williams to foul as soon as the ball was put in play. With 32.6 to play, Greenberg hit a three from the right wing after Amherst missed free throws. The triple closed the deficit to just 62-59 in Amherst’s favor. Daigneault was fouled on the inbound, and made both her free throws with 29.4 to play.

Jackson hit a deep two with off a screen and roll, before Finucane was fouled for another pair of free throws. They turned out to be the final points of the game, as Amherst dribbled out a 66-61 win. Amherst was paced by Daigneault with her fourth straight double-double at 19 points and 13 boards. Long and Finucane combined for another 24 points for the Jeffs, as Greenberg finished the night with a game-high 21 points to lead the Ephs.

Amherst will take to the road tomorrow to face Middlebury in their regular season finale at 3 p.m.