Amherst Hosting Final Rounds of NESCAC Championship

NESCAC%20Championships%20LogoGame Schedule: Saturday’s first semifinal will feature this season’s third installment of Amherst (24-1, 9-0) versus Williams (21-4, 6-3), with the Ephs and Lord Jeffs set to tip off at 2 p.m. The second semifinal will feature another great rivalry, as Colby (21-4, 7-2) will clash with Bowdoin (21-4, 6-3) for the third time this season. Saturday’s winners will advance to play in Sunday’s championship game, which will begin at noon.

Ticket Information: Tickets for each day will be $5 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens. Children under the age of 12 and Amherst College students with a valid ID will be admitted free of charge. Doors to LeFrak Gymnasium will open at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Tickets will not be sold in advance.

Live Coverage: Each of this weekend’s three games will feature a live webcast and live statistics.

Amherst%20No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 4 Williams:
Saturday’s first game will mark only the second time the Lord Jeffs and Ephs have met in the NESCAC Championship. Amherst has already defeated Williams by scores of 85-63 and 66-55 this season, but the Ephs proved how difficult it is to beat a team three times when they nearly upset the heavily favored Lord Jeffs in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Amherst has won seven straight against its archrival and has earned two of the past three NESCAC titles, while the Ephs are looking to advance to the tournament’s championship game for the first time in program history.

Amherst advanced to the semifinal round with a 57-32 win over Trinity last weekend, setting a tournament record for fewest points allowed in a game. The Jeffs lead the conference in field goal percentage defense (.313) and scoring defense (48.5 ppg), as well as blocks (5.9) and steals (13.6) per game. Since allowing 85 points to Kean on Jan. 11, the Jeffs have allowed only one opponent to score more than 60, while seven teams have been held below 50. Amherst also leads the NESCAC in scoring offense (77.8 ppg) despite featuring only two of the top 30 scorers in the league, while co-captains Sarah Leyman ’11 and Jaci Daigneault ’11 have the Jeffs leading in offensive rebounds per game (16.2). Leyman and Daigneault combined for 31 points and 18 rebounds in their first meeting with Williams this season, adding 32 and 13 in the rematch.

Trailing Tufts by seven with 3:44 to play in last week’s quarterfinals, it looked as though Williams would miss out on another shot at Amherst. The Ephs had defeated the Jumbos in overtime during the regular season, a feat they would duplicate by storming back in the final moments of regulation en route to a 69-64 victory in overtime. Taylor Shea ’11 had 20 points and eight rebounds in the win, with Claire Baecher ’13 adding 16 points and five blocks. Shea posted an impressive double-double against the Jeffs in the February meeting, as she currently ranks second on her team in scoring (11.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (7.5 rpg). Baecher is close behind with 10.9 points per night to go along with a NESCAC-best 1.9 blocks, while point guard Jill Greenberg ’12 leads the league in steals (2.7) and is second in assists (5.2).

No. 2 Colby vs. No. 3 Bowdoin
Despite being the higher seed, Colby will be the team looking to avenge a pair of losses from the regular season when the Mules take on in-state rival Bowdoin. The Polar Bears came from behind to earn a 70-64 win on Dec. 4 thanks to 16 points from Kaitlin Donahoe ’13, then used a 20-9 run to pull away for a 65-56 victory on Jan. 15, with Donahoe adding another 17 points. Saturday will mark the fourth meeting between Colby and Bowdoin in tournament history, with the Mules earning a 75-64 win over the Polar Bears in last year’s semifinals.

Colby is riding an eight-game win streak since its 82-60 loss to Amherst back on Jan. 28. Other than their losses to Bowdoin and Amherst, the Mules’ only blemish came in a 93-87 setback to Bates in overtime, a game Colby avenged by edging the Bobcats in a triple-overtime thriller, 90-88. The Mules advanced to this year’s semifinals by escaping upset-minded Middlebury, 67-64, with Rachel Mack ’12 contributing 26 points and 12 boards. Colby features five of the NESCAC’s top 20 scoring leaders, including the dominant one-two punch of forwards Mack (12.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, .526 FG%) and Julianne Kowalski ’11 (12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .527 FG%), who are a big reason the Mules lead the conference in rebounding margin (+10.5), free throw percentage (.775) and field goal percentage (.445). The Mules were upended by Amherst in last year’s conference finals, marking the third consecutive season they lost to the Jeffs in the tournament.

The Polar Bears went through a tough stretch when they lost to Tufts, Bates and Amherst by an average of 19.3 points in a span of four games, but Bowdoin is riding a six-game win streak after putting together a dominant 14-game run earlier in the season. Since a 72-48 loss to Amherst on Jan. 29, the Bears are out-scoring the opposition by 34.5 points per game, as they currently rank second in the NESCAC in scoring offense (73.9 ppg) and scoring margin (+21.6), also boasting the second highest shooting percentage at the line (.746), from behind the arc (.364) and overall (.438). Bowdoin matches Amherst with eight players averaging at least 5.0 points per game, with Katie Bergeron ’11 (11.7) and Jill Henrikson ’12 (11.5) leading the way. In a 69-51 win over Bates in the quarterfinals, Bergeron totaled 18 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists, moving Bowdoin one step closer to a ninth NESCAC title (2001-07, 2009).
2011 NESCAC Championship
Quarterfinal Round – Saturday, Feb. 19
No. 1 Amherst def. No. 8 Trinity, 57-32
No. 2 Colby def. No. 7 Middlebury, 67-64
No. 3 Bowdoin def. No. 6 Bates, 69-51
No. 4 Williams def. No. 5 Tufts, 69-64 (OT)

Semifinal Round – Saturday, Feb. 26 (@ Amherst)
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 4 Williams – 2 p.m.
No. 2 Colby vs. No. 3 Bowdoin – 4 p.m.

Championship Game – Sunday, Feb. 27 (@ Amherst)
Semifinal Winners – 12 p.m.