Jeffs Upend Bowdoin to Claim Third NESCAC Title in Past Four Years

NESCAC%20Champions
Amherst has won three of the past four NESCAC titles.

AMHERST, MA – Amherst College used a dominant first-half performance from Caroline Stedman ’12 and an exceptional second-half showing from Jaci Daigneault ’11 to earn a 72-37 win over Bowdoin College in Sunday afternoon’s NESCAC Women's Basketball Championship title game at LeFrak Gymnasium.

With their third conference crown in the past four years, the Lord Jeffs improve to 26-1 and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Polar Bears, who had been 27-2 in conference championship play and 8-0 in NESCAC title games prior to Sunday, move to 22-5 and will hope to receive an at-large bid to the national tournament.

Amherst and Bowdoin have combined to win all 11 NESCAC titles since the conference’s championship format began in 2001, with the Lord Jeffs claiming the 2008, 2010 and 2011 crowns. Amherst increased its overall win streak to 13 games and is now unbeaten in its past 45 home contests.

Amherst used a pair of three-pointers from Shannon Finucane ’12 to build an early lead, pushing its advantage to 10 points (16-6) after a 7-0 run. Bowdoin managed only three points during an eight-minute stretch despite working hard on the glass and getting several second and third chances, as the Polar Bears shot only 23.8 percent (5-of-21) from the floor in the first half.

The Lord Jeffs began to take control in the final minutes of the opening period when Stedman knocked down three consecutive three-pointers to push Amherst’s lead to 34-15. Bowdoin got the final point of the half on a free throw by Katie Bergeron ’11, but Amherst carried a 34-16 advantage into the locker room with Stedman (17) singlehandedly out-scoring the visitors. The Jeffs pulled down nine offensive boards in the half, with the Bears grabbing eight of their own.

The first nine minutes of the second half featured a 13-4 run by Amherst, with Daigneault doing a little bit of everything for the Jeffs to account for 10 of those points. Amherst shut down the visitors and pushed its lead to 29 points on several occasions, finally bringing it to 30 (59-29) when Stedman buried another triple from the corner. The Polar Bears never got to within fewer than 26, as the Jeffs pulled away for the 72-37 win.

Stedman finished with a game-high 23 points and three steals, with Daigneault adding 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals of her own. Kim Fiorentino ’12 led all players with a career-high seven assists to go along with her eight points, four boards and two blocks.

Bergeron led Bowdoin with 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half. Nicole Coombes ’12 added eight points and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. The Polar Bears turned the ball over 20 times and shot just 1-of-9 from three-point range, as they were held below 40 points for the first time all year.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air Monday at 3 p.m. on NCAA.com. Updates will be posted on the Amherst Athletics website as soon as they are available.

BOX SCORE

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 def. No. 4 Williams, 71-64
No. 3 Bowdoin def. No. 2 Colby, 79-63

Championship Game – Sunday, Feb. 27 (@ Amherst)
No. 1 Amherst def. No. 3 Bowdoin, 72-37