Women’s Basketball Advances with Win over Wesleyan
By Amro El-Adle '13, Managing Sports Editor
In what looks to be the first of numerous postseason victories, the women’s basketball team drubbed the Wesleyan Cardinals 57-36 to kick off the NESCAC championships.

The Jeffs stormed into their first postseason game on the heels of the first undefeated regular season in Amherst basketball history, sweeping up the number one rankings in the D3hoops.com and ESPN Coaches polls, along with the NESCAC regular-season title. The Cardinals blew into the game on a more gingerly zephyr, finishing the season 8-14, including a pedestrian 2-7 in NESCAC games — good enough for a No.8 seed in the NESCAC tournament, and first-round date at LeFrak. In their only other visit to LeFrak this season, on Jan. 15th, the Cardinals left with their tails between their legs as the Jeffs dominated, 89-49.

In sharp contrast to that match-up, where the Jeffs averaged over two points per minute, Saturday’s game featured a much more stately pace. In the first five minutes, Wesleyan managed to snatch two offensive rebounds — a stat the Jeffs usually dominate with their lanky frontline — and got out to a 5-4 lead. The Jeffs also failed to capitalize on three Cardinal turnovers during the stretch, and missed six of their first eight shots, prompting head coach G.P. Gromacki to call a timeout.

Coming out of the huddle, the Jeffs turned to junior co-captain Sarah Leyman for a quick score from the block, but Leyman picked up two quick fouls a short while later. Trusting his player, Gromacki left her out on the floor, and the Jeffs responded with a 7-0 run, with first-year Marcia Voigt draining a three-pointer and sophomore Jackie Renner hitting back-to-back layups to put Amherst up 13-7 and force the Cardinals into a timeout.

The Jeffs were not particularly efficient with their shot-selection, as they shot a sub-par 13-31 from the field in the first half, but their defense allowed them to hold their ground, holding the Cardinals to 6-19 shooting. With 8:02 to go in the opening half, however, sophomore Caroline Stedman finally got back-to-back buckets to drop, extending the Amherst lead to 20-9. The lead hovered in the double digits for the next few minutes, before Wesleyan went on a 6-0 run to close out the half, highlighted by a buzzer-beater from beyond half-court that sent Amherst into the break with a deflated 30-21 advantage.

Leyman picked up her third foul of the game to start the second half, and Wesleyan twice cut the lead down to seven before sophomore Shannon Finucane put the Jeffs up by double digits for good. A Renner baseline jumper put the Jeffs up 52-31 with 6:11 left to play, and after Wesleyan hit a couple of shots to cut the lead to 16, Renner and Voigt doused any hope of a comeback with a couple of buckets to seal the win.

Stedman paced the Jeffs with 16 points on 7-15 shooting (1-6 from deep), and Leyman put in 12 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Renner poured in all kinds of stats, as she finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three blocks and three assists.

Despite only shooting 39.3 percent from the field in the game, the Jeffs showed off the versatility of their attack, as they made up for their poor shooting by forcing 23 Wesleyan turnovers, and cleaning up their misses with a 16-7 advantage on the offensive glass.

“Crashing the offensive boards is essential to our offense,” said Leyman. “We have a very balanced attack in terms of outside and inside points. And we consider offensive boards hustle plays and extra points for us. If our shooting happens to be off for a night, we have to get after offensive rebounds to give ourselves more chances to score. That just amounts to us wanting the game more and out-working the other team, which we always pride ourselves in.”

The Jeffs will wrap up the NESCAC championship this weekend at LeFrak, as three schools from Maine — Bates, Bowdoin and Colby — will travel to LeFrak in hopes of upsetting Amherst. The tip-off on Saturday against Bates will be at 2:00 p.m.

Issue 16, Submitted 2010-02-24 05:23:43