Amherst Selected to Host NCAA Sectional Rounds
AMHERST, MA – Amherst College has been selected as one of four Sectional hosts in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament, marking the third consecutive year the Lord Jeffs will compete in the “Sweet 16” and “Elite 8” on their home court.
Game Schedule: Friday’s 5 p.m. game will feature Bowdoin College taking on Babson College, followed by Amherst hosting Muhlenberg College at 7 p.m. Saturday’s Sectional finals will begin at 6 p.m. with a trip to the “Final Four” on the line.
Ticket Information: Tickets for each day will be $7 for adults and $4 for senior citizens, students with a valid ID, and children 2 and older. Doors to LeFrak Gymnasium will open at 3:30 on Friday and at 4:30 on Saturday. Those who present an Amherst College ID (faculty, staff, student) at the door will be admitted FREE of charge.
Live Coverage: Each of this weekend’s games will feature a live webcast and live statistics.
Weekend Preview: This is the third consecutive year Amherst (28-1) has been selected to host the Sectional Rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Lord Jeffs have taken advantage of their hosting rights by posting a 10-0 record in national tournament games held in LeFrak Gymnasium, winning those contests by an average of 24.7 points. Contributing to that lopsided margin of victory was a 102-44 victory over Husson in last weekend’s opening round, as the Jeffs are the only team to score at least 90 points in any game of this year’s tournament. Five players scored at least 10 points in that win, with NESCAC Player of the Year Jaci Daigneault ’11 leading the way at 23.
The second round saw Kim Fiorentino ’12 post the best game of her career, as she knocked down her first five attempts from beyond the arc en route to a personal-best 19 points against Eastern Connecticut State. The Lord Jeffs are glad to have Daigneault and Fiorentino on board, as the two standouts combined to play only six minutes in last year’s two Sectional games due to injuries. Sarah Leyman ’11 has also been playing extremely well as of late, recording a double-double against Eastern Connecticut to bring her career rebounding total to 799.
On Friday Amherst will be facing a dangerous team that put together miraculous comebacks in the first two rounds of this year’s tournament, but last season it was the Lord Jeffs who needed to play from behind in the Round of 16. Trailing Williams by 15 points in the second half, Amherst returned to form and battled back for a 71-66 victory that featured 20 points from Shannon Finucane '12 and a double-double from Leyman (19 points, 11 rebounds). As one of only two NESCAC teams remaining in the field, Amherst is riding a 15-game winning streak and has not lost in its past 47 home contests.
The Mules of Muhlenberg College (23-5) are making their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and fifth in the past six years, but this one has been the most memorable in program history. After posting an 8-0 record in February and claiming their sixth Centennial Conference championship, the Mules kicked off their national title run with a 64-63 win over Williams thanks to a clinching three-pointer from Alexandra Chili ’12 with one second remaining in regulation.
After pouring in 24 points against the Ephs, Chili added another 24 the next day in a 74-69 upset win over Rochester. The Mules trailed by 17 at the break but used an incredible second-half performance to battle all the way back, with Kelly McKeon ’11 and Chili combining for 34 points in the second period to lead the way. With last weekend’s performances, Chili moved into third place on Muhlenberg’s career scoring list. Also the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers, Chili was named to the All-CC First Team for the second time, while McKeon—who has recorded four straight postseason double-doubles—earned an All-Conference selection for the fourth consecutive year.
This is the third straight year in which Muhlenberg is facing a NESCAC team in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to last weekend’s dramatic win over Williams, the Mules knocked off Bowdoin in the 2009 second round, advancing to the Round of 16 for the first time in program history with a 58-57 win. Friday will mark only the second meeting between Amherst and Muhlenberg, as the Mules earned an 88-71 victory over the Lord Jeffs in the 2003 Land of Magic Classic in Daytona, Fla.
In the midst of its 11th NCAA Tournament run, Bowdoin College (24-5) is making its ninth appearance in the Round of 16. The Polar Bears are 25-10 all-time in the national tournament, having advanced to the Sectional finals each year from 2002-07, including a run all the way to the title game in 2004. Bowdoin got off to a 14-1 start this season and is 10-2 in its past 12 games, with each of its past two losses coming at the hands of Amherst, including a 72-37 result in the NESCAC title game.
The Polar Bears began their 2011 NCAA Tournament with a 74-64 win over Salve Regina, during which Alexa Barry ’12 recorded a double-double as one of five players to score at least 10 points. The next day Bowdoin held Mount Saint Mary to only 19 first-half points and led by 13 at the break, holding on for a 61-53 victory that featured 19 points and 10 boards from Kaitlin Donahoe ’13. Bowdoin has not faced Babson since the 2001 regular season, when the Beavers came away with a 68-57 victory to mark their third consecutive win over the Polar Bears.
Leading the way for Bowdoin are 2011 All-NESCAC guards Katie Bergeron ’11 and Jill Henrikson ’12, who average 12.1 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. Bergeron averaged 14.0 points and 5.7 assists in last year’s NCAA Tournament, totaling 17 points and two assists during a 62-51 loss to Kean in the Sectional semifinals. In the 2008 tournament Bergeron had 16 points and six rebounds in a first-round win over Castleton State, while Henrikson added 16 points and four assists in the loss to Muhlenberg.
Cruising along as one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in Division III are the Beavers of Babson College (29-0). Thanks to a third consecutive NEWMAC title, Babson is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in as many years and the sixth in the 37-year history of the program. With previously-unbeaten Denison making an early exit from the tournament, the Beavers join top-ranked Thomas More (30-0) as the only teams yet to suffer a loss this season.
Despite its unblemished record, Babson will not host a single game in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Hitting the road for the first and second rounds didn’t seem to bother the Beavers, who earned a 78-58 win over Medaille before defeating host Geneseo State, 65-53, the next day. Kathleen King ’12 (20 points, 19 rebounds) and Nicki Wurdeman ’12 (18 points, 12 rebounds) each recorded a double-double against Medaille, a feat the junior tandem repeated against Geneseo by combining for 24 points and 24 boards.
The two-time NEWMAC Player of the Year, Wurdeman leads Babson with 18.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. King adds 15.2 points and 9.7 boards per contest, while sophomore center Sarah Collins contributes 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per outing. The Beavers are among the nation’s leaders in scoring defense (47.3 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.303), rebounding margin (+13.2), field goal percentage (.461) and blocks per game (5.9), as Wurdeman, Collins and King are three of four six-footers on the roster. Each of Babson’s past two NCAA Tournament runs has been stopped by Amherst, including an 80-65 result in last year's Sectional finals.