Jeffs End Season with Loss to St. Thomas

Amherst became the second Division III school to advance
to four consecutive Final Fours. (Photo by Tim Fuller)

Contact: Justin Long

AMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College women's basketball team ended a phenomenal season with an 87-60 loss to St. Thomas in the NCAA Division III Championship consolation game on Saturday.

The Lord Jeffs close the year at 31-2 overall, giving the Class of 2012 a final record of 124-8. Amherst’s seniors became only the second group in Division III history to make four consecutive Final Four appearances, while their 124 wins are the most in any four-year span.

The Class of 2012 accounted for 52 points on Saturday, with Lem Atanga McCormick’s 22 leading the way to go with her 10 rebounds and three blocks. Caroline Stedman added 12 points, four assists and a pair of blocks en route to All-Tournament Team honors, while fellow seniors Jackie Renner, Kim Fiorentino, Shannon Finucane and Livia Rizzo combined for 18 points and 12 boards.

Finucane wrapped up her career with 131 games played, which marks a new Division III record. She also finished as Amherst’s all-time steals leader (289), as well as ranking second in program history in assists (411) and 13th in points (1,018).

Atanga McCormick will graduate as Amherst’s all-time leader in blocks (174), also ranking sixth all-time in both points (1,223) and rebounds (641). Stedman’s 1,256 points are the fifth most in program history, while her 188 steals and 95 blocks rank fourth and sixth, respectively. Fiorentino is among the school’s all-time leaders in points (832), assists (268) and blocks (87), with Renner totaling 226 assists and 97 blocks in only three years.

“I could talk for hours about this group and what they have meant to me and to our basketball program,” said Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki after Saturday’s game. “I was fortunate to have them play for me.”

Amherst’s seniors got Amherst out to a 10-6 lead after a three by Stedman, an inside move from Atanga McCormick, a pair of runners from Finucane and a Fiorentino free throw. The Tommies took over from there and scored 22 of the game’s next 24 points, as Ali Johnson caught fire to give her team a 28-12 advantage with 7:43 to play.

Atanga McCormick wrapped up her career with 22 points
and 10 rebounds against St. Thomas. (Photo by Tim Fuller)

Atanga McCormick knocked down a three to stop a 5:47 scoring drought, but Johnson connected on another two from long range to push the Tommie lead to 20 at 36-16. The Lord Jeffs made only six of their first 29 field goal attempts but would shoot 6-for-8 down the stretch, closing the half on a 12-4 run after Stedman hit a layup at the buzzer to make it a 43-32 game.

The Jeffs were 2-for-15 from behind the arc and 6-for-13 at the line in the first half, while the Tommies hit five of their eight threes and went 12-for-16 on free throws. Johnson led all players with 20 points at the break, while Atanga McCormick had 13 for Amherst.

Amherst looked like its usual self in the opening two minutes of the second half, beginning with Atanga McCormick coasting in for an easy lay-in on a long inbounds pass. She followed with a turnaround jumper and Renner added two points in the paint, but the Tommies had an answer for everything and held a 51-38 lead at 15:38.

The Jeffs hit another cold spell and St. Thomas continued to fire on all cylinders, with a big blow coming at 7:51 when Sarah Smith converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a reverse layup. The Tommies held a 69-48 advantage on Smith’s move and would lead by as many as 29 en route to their 87-60 win.

Johnson led all players with 24 points and Maggie Weiers added 21, as the two players combined to shoot 14-for-22. The Tommies shot 83.8 percent at the line and 46.3 percent overall, with Johnson going 6-for-11 from long range to account for all of her team’s three-pointers.

“You can’t let one weekend define your whole career,” Stedman said during the post-game press conference. “We’ve had an amazing run. It’s been the best four years of my life.”