Final Four Bound! Jeffs Hold Off Widener, 59-45

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Contact: Ben Badua

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(Courtesy of Niahlah Hope '15)

AMHERST, Mass. – In what is quickly becoming a March tradition, the Amherst College women’s basketball team clinched its fifth-consecutive berth into the NCAA Division III Women’s Final Four, defeating Widener University, 59-45, in the sectional finals Saturday night at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Improving to 30-1 on the season, the sixth-ranked Jeffs ensured their program record home win streak would see another season by logging an 86th-straight victory inside friendly confines. Having last lost in LeFrak on Jan. 31, 2009 to Bowdoin, Amherst now stands just two home wins shy of matching the all-time Division III record.

Having never suffered a LeFrak loss in their careers (77-0 at home), Marcia Voigt ’13, Bridget Crowley ’13 and Jasmine Hardy ’13 also became DIII’s all-time winningest class with the triumph (125-5), surpassing the Class of 2012's win total of 124. The Jeffs will now travel to Holland, Mich. for a national semifinal showdown with No. 22 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (26-6) on Friday, Mar. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Top-ranked DePauw (33-0) and archrival Williams (27-5) square off in the evening’s other Final Four game at 7:30 p.m.

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Turning in another big effort, Crowley tallied 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, while Voigt scored 16 of her game-high 19 in the final 17:32. Matching a personal-best with 10 rebounds for the second-straight night, Voigt also dished out seven assists. Megan Robertson ’15 added 10 points and eight boards, while Hardy and Cheyenne Pritchard ’16 each played all 40 minutes, combining for nine points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Lil Carney ’13 paced Widener with 12 points and five boards, while Jennifer Egee ’14 was the only other member of the Pride in double figures with 10. Kate Dellinger ’13 chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds, while Francesca Lee ’13 had five points and eight boards.

Up 3-1 in the early going thanks to a Pritchard triple on the left wing, Crowley connected on a turnaround to stake the Jeffs to a four-point edge. Carney recorded Widener’s first field goal with a jumper at 16:04 before a Dellinger bucket pulled the visitors even.

Tied at 7-7, Robertson banked in a jumper off a Pritchard inbounds pass before another Crowley turnaround in the paint pushed the margin to four. Egee answered with a contested triple from the top of the key before Crowley capped off a frantic stretch with a fastbreak layup just before the 12-minute mark.

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On top 15-12, Voigt knocked down a trey from the left wing to give Amherst a six-point cushion. Up five with just over four minutes left in the half, Crowley buried a long two from the left side before Savannah Holness ’15 laid one in to make it 25-16. Egee ended a nearly six-minute Pride field goal drought with a layup at 2:28 before Joanna Persiano ’14 dialed it up from long distance to pull Widener within four.

Hardy answered with a trey of her own on the other end before Crowley dropped it in with her left hand to make it 30-21. With just 12 seconds to go in the half, Carney drew a foul going to the rim, hitting both of her ensuing free throws to bring Widener within seven at the intermission.

Still up seven early in the second half, Voigt found Robertson for an easy two off a pretty entry pass. Moments later, she ducked into the paint for a reverse layup that made it 34-23. Moving to her right, Voigt banked in a runner at 16:04 before Vanessa Hejnas ’13 recorded the visitor’s first point of the frame with a 1-of-2 showing from the charity stripe.

Ahead by 15 with under 14 minutes to play, Voigt knifed into the lane for two before Egee notched Widener’s first field goal of the half at 13:09. Trying to claw back, Ally Ferrucci ’15 hit a pair of free throws before a Dellinger layup and Egee three cut the deficit to 10. Stemming the tide, Voigt buried back-to-back pull-up jumpers to give the Jeffs a 47-33 cushion.

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A Robertson baseline bucket at 7:24 stretched the margin to 16 before Carney went coast-to-coast to trim the Jeff lead to 51-37. After a Carney layup off an offensive rebound later cut it to 11, Lee hit a jumper from the right corner to cut the Amherst lead under double digits.

Needing a big basket, Hardy came around a screen and knocked down a straight-away three to put the Jeffs up 12 before Voigt hit a pair of free throws to make it 56-42. Dellinger scored down low inside of the two-minute mark to once again make it a 12-point spread, but that was as close as Widener would get with Voigt scooping in a lefty layuup on Amherst’s ensuing possession.

Putting together another solid defensive effort, the Jeffs held the Pride to just 23.8 percent (15-for-63) shooting, including a 27.3 percent (3-for-11) clip from long distance. In four NCAA tournament games, opponents are averaging just 40.0 points against Amherst, while shooting a paltry 25.5 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from three-point range.

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