Amherst Defeats Fitchburg State 72-59 to Win Inaugural Tip-Off Tournament

Jaci Daigneault was named the MVP of the
2008 Tip-Off Tournament.
AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College women’s basketball team faced off against Fitchburg State College this afternoon in the championship game of Amherst’s inaugural Tip-Off  Tournament. Amherst took home the 2008 title with a 72-59 win, improving to 2-0 on the year, while dropping Fitchburg to 1-1.

Amherst took an early 6-0 lead with 16:21 to play when sophomore forward Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) corralled an offensive board and dropped home the put-back. After a Falcon three pointer cut the lead in half, sophomore Kristyn Dunleavy (East Setauket, NY) put Amherst up 9-3 on a triple from the right corner.

Daigneault put Amherst up 16-10 on a three-point play with 10:05 to go after a great pass in transition from first-year Lem Atanga McCromick (Chicago, IL). Fitchburg closed the gap to 16-13 by the nine minute mark, and after nearly two scoreless minutes, Amherst senior co-captain Yasmine Harik (New York, NY) put home a bucket in response.

Amherst sophomore Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) helped put Amherst up 26-17 with under four minutes in the half by blocking a Fitchburg shot, grabbing the rebound and drawing a foul. She then hit both free throws on a one-and-one to give the Lord Jeffs their largest lead of the half at that point.

After a pair of defensive stops, a Daigneault three put Amherst up 31-17, before Stephanie Payette made a nice post move for a Falcon score. The two teams traded scores on the final two possessions, sending Amherst to the locker room up 35-21.

Daigneault was the high scorer with 14 points at the break on 6-of-9 shooting, while Leyman pulled down nine first-half rebounds. Payette paced the Falcons with six points in the half.

Early in the second half, Fitchburg’s Krystle O’Brien hit her second three of the game to close the margin to 10 points at 38-28. Daigneault responded with her second triple of the night to put Amherst ahead 41-29.

The Amherst lead grew as large as 15 points at 46-31, before Fitchburg put together a scoring run through the middle of the half. The Falcons closed the margin to 46-43, when Amherst first-year Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) nailed a three from the right wing in response.

With Amherst up just 49-47, Leyman pulled down an offensive board and found Dunleavy at the top of the key for a three. On the following possession, Dunleavy hit another long-range jumper to put the Jeffs up 54-47 and force a timeout from Fitchburg head coach Walter Paschal with under six minutes remaining.

By the 4:31 mark of the second half, Amherst had stretched the lead back to 58-47, before Dunleavy took back over from the perimeter. With just three and a half minutes to go, the sophomore hit her fourth three of the night, bringing her up to 20 points in the game.

Amherst held on down the stretch and beat the full-court press from Fitchburg en route to a 72-59 win. Dunleavy’s 20 points was a game-high, while Daigneault was close behind with 19 points and Leyman had a game-high 10 rebounds. Kelley Rodgers and Payette each scored 14 points to lead the Falcons.

2008 Amherst Tip-Off All-Tournament Team

Jaci Daigneault (Amherst) - MVP
Kristyn Dunleavy (Amherst)

Kelley Rogers (Fitchburg)
Melissa Proffitt (Fitchburg)
Whitney Coleman (RPI)
Tempest Casey (NYCCT)