Amherst in Search of NESCAC Three-Peat
Contact: Justin Long
AMHERST, Mass. – Top-seeded Amherst College will host the final rounds of the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship this weekend. The Lord Jeffs will take on fourth-seeded Colby College Saturday at 1 p.m., with the tournament’s championship game scheduled for Sunday at noon.
Ticket Information: No tickets will be sold in advance of this weekend’s NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship games. All tickets will be sold on site, with doors to LeFrak Gymnasium opening at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Tickets will be $5 for adults and $2 for students and children. Amherst students with a valid ID will be admitted free of charge.
Live Coverage: Each of this weekend’s three games will feature a free webcast and live statistics.
Last Meeting: Colby took the lead from Amherst on a Rachel Mack ’12 three-pointer with 9:03 remaining in regulation, and the Lord Jeffs wouldn’t get it back for nearly eight minutes. After Marcia Voigt ’13 and Mack traded layups, Amherst went ahead for good when Caroline Stedman ’12 hit an off-balanced shot with 18 seconds to go, securing a thrilling 51-50 win for the Jeffs in Waterville, Maine.
Amherst is in search of a third consecutive NESCAC title.
If Amherst Wins: At 25-0, it’s safe to say that Amherst is a lock for this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Jeffs are looking for a fifth consecutive finals appearance and their fourth title in five years, and a win against Colby would set up a great Sunday showdown. Amherst would face either eight-time conference champion Bowdoin (19-6)—which nearly handed the Jeffs a loss in the regular season—or a Tufts squad that boasts a 20-5 record with one of the best defenses in all of Division III.
If Colby Wins: A 20th win would be quite appealing to the NCAA selection committee, as a victory over the top-ranked team in Division III would likely earn Colby (19-6) an invitation to the big dance. The Mules are looking for their second finals appearance in three years, but their first-ever NESCAC title would have to go through a team they have already lost to. Colby defeated Bowdoin by 15 back in December but lost by 12 in a rematch nearly two months later, while Tufts handed the Mules a 59-50 loss on Jan. 14.
Keys to the Game: Colby won’t be intimidated after nearly upsetting Amherst, but the Jeffs are coming off one of their best halves of the season. After a slower-than-usual start against Trinity in the quarterfinals, Amherst set conference tournament records for points in a half (60), points in a game (94) and field goal percentage (.618). The Jeffs shot a blistering 68.8 percent in the second period, including 83.3 percent on two-point field goals (20-for-24).
A big key will be the return of Lem Atanga McCormick ’12, who was not in the lineup against Colby during the regular season. The senior forward will help the Jeffs as they attempt to slow down the outstanding duo of Jil Vaughan ’12 (6’3) and Rachel Mack ’12 (6’2), who combined for 24 points in the last meeting. The Jeffs were able to contain Colby’s size thanks to Megan Robertson ’15 (18 points) and Bridget Crowley ’13 (9 rebounds), but Atanga McCormick should give Amherst a boost in the paint. The Mules will need to work their inside game, as they connected on 54.5 percent of their two-point field goals but were only 3-for-16 from long range against Amherst.
The Mules caught Amherst during a challenging seven-game road trip during the regular season, but the Jeffs are back in LeFrak to protect their 61-game home winning streak. Amherst has ended Colby’s NESCAC Championship run in three of the past four years, having defeated the Mules in the 2008 quarterfinals (83-53), 2009 semifinals (77-36) and 2010 finals (69-54). The Jeffs have won 44 consecutive games overall, a streak that began Jan. 14, 2011.
A complete preview of the NESCAC Women's Basketball Championship is available on the conference's website.
2012 NESCAC Women's Basketball Championship
Quarterfinal Round - Saturday, Feb. 18
No. 1 Amherst def. No. 8 Trinity, 94-59
No. 2 Tufts def. No. 7 Connecticut, 57-40
No. 3 Bowdoin def. No. 6 Wesleyan, 53-37
No. 4 Colby def. No. 5 Williams, 61-59
Semifinal Round - Saturday, Feb. 25
No. 1 Amherst (25-0) vs. No. 4 Colby (19-6) --- 1 p.m.
No. 2 Tufts (20-5) vs. No. 3 Bowdoin (19-6) --- 3 p.m.
Championship Game - Sunday, Feb. 26
Semifinal Winners --- 12 p.m.