Defending Champs Returning to Hope

Contact: Justin Long

NCAA

AMHERST, Mass. – The top-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team will travel to Hope College in Holland, Mich., for this weekend’s final rounds of the 2012 NCAA Division III Championship.

The defending national champions will face George Fox University at Hope’s DeVos Fieldhouse this Friday at 5 p.m. in a battle between the only undefeated teams remaining in Division III. Friday’s second semifinal matchup will feature Illinois Wesleyan and St. Thomas, with Saturday’s consolation and title games set for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ticket Information: Tickets for each day will cost $10 for students and $12 for adults. Two-day packages will cost $15 for students and $20 for adults. Tickets can be purchased by calling 616-395-7890 on Monday-Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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

On-Campus Viewing Parties: Looking to watch this weekend's games on campus with fellow Amherst fans? Friday's semifinal game against George Fox will be streamed live in Stirn Auditorium. Should the Lord Jeffs advance to the title game, a live stream will be made available in Merrill Science 2. CAMPUS MAP

Please note that a viewing party will not be made available for Saturday's consolation game.

Live Press Conferences: Thursday's press conferences will be streamed live on the Hope College athletics website. Amherst's press conference is scheduled to begin at 11:05 a.m. WATCH LIVE

Two of the Best: When compiling a list of the best women’s basketball programs of the past five years, Amherst and George Fox have to be near the top. The Bruins finished the 2008-09 season at 32-0 as national champions, which began a dominant 116-9 stretch for the Class of 2012. This year George Fox claimed a sixth consecutive Northwest Conference title and is making a second appearance in the Final Four, as the Bruins are attempting join Washington-St. Louis as the only Division III programs to win two national titles with undefeated records.

Stedman
Caroline Stedman '12 was recently named the D3hoops.com Northeast Player of the Year.

Amherst’s senior class, meanwhile, has posted a 124-6 record in the past four years, including a 76-1 mark at home and a 36-1 showing in conference play. The Lord Jeffs have won three consecutive NESCAC titles and are making their fourth Final Four appearance in as many years, notably carrying a 50-game winning streak into the weekend. Head Coach G.P. Gromacki has bumped his career record to 314-47 (.870), giving him the highest winning percentage among head coaches across all divisions in the history of NCAA men’s and women’s basketball.

Leading the Way: Friday’s first semifinal game will feature a great matchup between Amherst’s Caroline Stedman ’12 and George Fox’s Keisha Gordon ’12, who recently earned D3hoops.com Player of the Year honors for their respective regions. Gordon leads the Bruins with 14.2 points per game and has averaged 15.0 during the national tournament, while Stedman is close behind at 13.9 for the season.

As one of the most decorated players in program history, Stedman has been at the forefront of Amherst’s recent success. Leading the team in scoring 32 times in the past three years, Stedman currently ranks 5th among the school’s all-time leaders in points (1,222), as well as fourth in steals (184), 6th in blocks (92) and 12th in assists (193). Last year Stedman overcame an early-season injury to lead the Jeffs in scoring in the national semifinals (18) and in the title game (19) en route to Final Four MVP honors.

While Stedman is a two-time NESCAC and Northeast Player of the Year, Gordon was named the 2012 Northwest Conference Player of the Year and is a four-time All-Conference selection. She is George Fox’s all-time leader in points (1,724) and steals (288), also ranking fourth in assists (333) and eighth in rebounds (744). Gordon is listed in the top 10 of the NWC in eight categories, as she and Stedman are both extremely versatile players capable of controlling games in a variety of ways.  

The Inside Game: Stedman and Gordon may be the two most versatile players in Michigan this weekend, but George Fox junior center Hannah Munger could be the most dominant. At 6’5 she has been a matchup nightmare for opponents, resulting in three consecutive All-Conference First Team selections and a 2011 D3hoops.com West Player of the Year honor. She leads the NWC in field goal percentage (.558) and blocked shots (3.9), also ranking second in rebounding (9.6) and ninth in scoring (13.8) with 14 double-doubles to her credit.

Munger has recorded five or more blocks in 15 games this season, notably posting eight against Northwest (Wash.) and Concordia-Portland. Although Munger’s statistics are impressive, Amherst has been the better team in the blocks department. The Lord Jeffs rank third in the category nationally (7.4) thanks to five players recording between 34 and 39 rejections on the year, as their swarming defense has come from all angles this season.

Atanga%20McCormick2
Lem Atanga McCormick '12 will have her hands full against one of the nation's best post players.

Although slowing down Munger will require a team effort, forwards Lem Atanga McCormick ’12 (11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Megan Robertson ’15 (11.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) will be taking on the bulk of the workload. Robertson—the 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year—matches Munger’s .558 field goal percentage and has recorded six double-doubles this season, while Atanga McCormick should present problems to George Fox as a threat from long range. Amherst’s post players hold the edge if Friday’s game turns into a battle at the free throw line; while Munger has connected on 53.2 percent of her 190 attempts, Robertson (.657) and Atanga McCormick (.825) are a combined 71.8 percent.

The Supporting Casts: Gordon and Munger have been leading George Fox throughout the season, but the Bruins feature seven other players who average at least 10.0 minutes per game, four of whom contribute 5.6 points or more per night. First-year Jami Roos has added 10.5 points off the bench as the team’s biggest three-point threat, shooting at a .354 clip while attempting nearly six shots from behind the arc each game. Roos is also capable of getting to the foul line, where she has shot 76.7 percent this year.

Amherst has outmatched teams with its depth and athleticism for the past four years, and the Jeffs will need more of the same if they want to get past George Fox. Stedman, Robertson and Atanga McCormick have been incredibly consistent, while Marcia Voigt ’13 has come alive to average 13.0 points in her past nine games. Jackie Renner ’12 played a pivotal role during last year’s Final Four run and will be looked upon this Friday as a 6’0 guard, as she is coming off an exceptional game against Emmanuel in which she totaled 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Kim Fiorentino ’12 stood out during last year’s NCAA tournament as Amherst’s defensive stopper, and she is once again leading the charge for what has been one of the most dominant defensive teams in Division III. The 5’9 guard has played her best against elite competition, notably recording three blocks and three steals against Tufts in the NESCAC finals before chalking up three more blocks and three steals against Babson in the NCAA’s second round. Shannon Finucane ’12 (6.3 ppg) came through with game-changing plays in last year’s Final Four, as she recorded four steals against Christopher Newport and gave Amherst the lead for good in the title game by knocking down two three-pointers in a span of three minutes.

Peaking at the Right Time: Both teams are coming off impressive weekends, but George Fox’s convincing 68-45 win over previously undefeated Mary Washington (30-0) stood out among the tournament’s Sectional results. The Bruins had a scare when they scored only 17 first-half points and held on for a 52-50 win over Lewis and Clark in the second round, marking only the third time this season they won by fewer than 10 points. George Fox rallied to knock off Bowdoin by a score of 71-55 in the Sectional semifinals, with their win over Mary Washington putting the finishing touch on a dominant run to the Final Four.

Team
This weekend will mark the end of what has been an
incredible run for the Class of 2012. (Photo by Tim Fuller)

The Lord Jeffs followed a 24-0 regular season by winning their three NESCAC Championship games by 25.0 points, and they maintained that dominance by defeating their first four NCAA tournament opponents by an average of 28.5. Amherst has posted 14 consecutive double-digit wins and begins the final weekend ranked in the top 10 nationally in several categories, including scoring margin (1st, +29.2), assist-to-turnover ratio (1st, 1.25), field goal percentage defense (1st, .293), scoring defense (3rd, 46.0), rebounding margin (9th, +10.2) and scoring offense (9th, 75.2).

In Short: Amherst has been Division III’s top-ranked team since it won the 2011 national title, but the Bruins have been in the rearview mirror the whole way. With each team surrendering fewer than 50.0 points per game on average, fans can expect Friday’s showdown to be a low-scoring affair. The Lord Jeffs proved they can play with bigger teams when they defeated Babson in the tournament’s second round, but George Fox could be the most versatile squad Amherst sees all year. The Bruins will be in trouble if Amherst continues to shoot well from the outside, while the Jeffs will have to stay out of foul trouble if they want to contain Munger and Gordon throughout the game.

For more information about this weekend’s games, use the links provided below.

2012 NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Hope College (Holland, MI) * DeVos Fieldhouse

National Semifinals - Friday, Mar. 16
5 p.m. --- Amherst (31-0) vs. George Fox (31-0)
7 p.m. --- St. Thomas (30-1) vs. Illinois Wesleyan (26-5)

Final Round - Saturday, Mar. 17
4 p.m. --- Consolation Game
7 p.m. --- Championship Game

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

* * Read an ESPN Boston story about Caroline Stedman '12 and Amherst's return to the Final Four * *

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NCAA Championship Website * Hope College Championship Website

Live Webcasting * Live Statistics

George Fox Website * Illinois Wesleyan Website * St. Thomas Website * Amherst Website