Jeffs Topple Colby in NESCAC Quarterfinals, 77-36

First-year Kim Fiorentino went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half.
AMHERST, MA – The 2nd-seeded Amherst College women’s basketball team opened play in the 2009 NESCAC Championship tournament this afternoon playing host to 7th-seeded Colby College at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass. Amherst led from start to finish for a 77-36 win to advance to next weekend’s NESCAC semifinals.

In the only meeting of the season between the two sides, Amherst escaped with a 65-64 win at home. In the opening round of last year’s conference tournament, Amherst defeated Colby 83-53 en route to the program’s first NESCAC Championship.

Amherst started the game on fire, jumping out to an 11-0 lead with each Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) and Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) scoring a pair of buckets inside. Over the next five minutes, the Amherst advantage remained between eight and 11 points, until a lay-up from rookie Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) put Amherst up 26-13 with 11:18 to play.

With 9:50 to play in the first half, first-year Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) found Stedman for a three to put Amherst up 31-15. The helper gave Finucane seven assists in just over a quarter of game-play.

Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) made a three from the left corner with 7:00 to play, putting Amherst up 38-15 and forcing Colby to use a timeout. Coming out of the break, Colby went to Meredith Aronson (Mountain Lakes, NJ) who was fouled inside. Aronson made 1-of-2 at the line, before Stedman drove to the rack with her left hand for a score.

Colby’s Jilian Vaughan (Wareham, MA) made a pair of free throws, before teammate Aarika Ritchie (Lee, ME) scored inside for the Mules on a bank. Amherst answered with a 6-0 run to close the half with a 53-40 lead. At the break, Daigneault led all players with 18 points and six rebounds, while Fiorentino had 12 points for Amherst. Ritchie paced the White Mules with eight points.

Early in the second half, both teams struggled from the field, and with 11:50 to play, Amherst had out-scored Colby just 5-2 in the frame. With 9:08 to play in the second half, Amherst first-year Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) picked up her fourth rejection of the game with an emphatic stuff coming from the weak side.

Colby’s Alison Cappelloni (Sudbury, MA) rained home a three from the top of the key with 7:57 to leave the Mules down 67-28. With just minutes to play in the second half, Amherst rookie and fan-favorite Livia Rizzo (Dover, MA) came off the bench to score on back-to-back possessions for the Jeffs.

Amherst cruised down the stretch for a 77-36 win, improving to 24-1 on the season and advancing to next weekend’s NESCAC Semifinal Round. Daigneault finished with game-highs in points (22) and rebounds (9), and just missed out on her sixth straight double-double. Cappelloni and Ritchie each finished with eight points, as Julianne Kowalski (Montville, NJ) led the Mules with nine points.

The Lord Jeffs will face Tufts University at top-seeded Bowdoin College at 4 p.m. on Saturday, while Colby’s season comes to an end with a 13-12 record.