Women’s Basketball Seeks 6-0 Streak to Capture Nationals Dream
By Amro El-Adle '13

The women’s basketball team embarked on the toughest stretch of their schedule on Sunday, after defeating Colby College 69-54 to win the NESCAC title and pull into the NCAA tournament undefeated.

The top-seeded Jeffs made sure that the NESCAC tournament went according to plan, mystifying sixth-seeded Bates College in the semifinal game 77-43 before stymieing the second-seeded Mules to take home the hardware.

The semifinal got off to a slow start, as both teams struggled from the field early on, with Bates limping out to a 15-10 lead about nine minutes into the game. Coach G.P. Gromacki was forced into calling a timeout at that juncture, as the Bobcats used a string of Amherst miscues to string together a 7-2 run.

The timeout turned out to be just what the Jeffs needed, as they went on to outscore the Bobcats 30-10 over the remainder of the half. They scored 14 of those points unanswered coming out of the huddle, with junior Kristyn Dunleavy accounting for nine of those herself. Dunleavy caught fire in the first-half, torching Bates for 12 points in only 14 minutes, and doing all of her damage from beyond the arc on 3-3 shooting. Her other three points came from the line, as she was fouled on a three-point attempt, and made all of her shots from the charity stripe. “We have an extremely balanced and unselfish team and we pride ourselves on finding the open person and making the extra pass, so any open shots I had were all due to our style of basketball,” said Dunleavy. “We always like to say that different people step up on different days to help us win, and that’s a vital part of what makes us so successful and difficult for other teams to play defense against.”

Gromacki once again demonstrated considerable trust in his players during the first-half stretch that ultimately decided the game, leaving sophomore Caroline Stedman in the game for the first half after she picked up two fouls about 10 minutes into the game.

The second half marked the start of a 12-0 run for Amherst, capped off by back-to-back scores from sophomore Lem Atanga McCormick that put the Jeffs up 52-25. A comfortable lead for the Jeffs that hovered around 30 allowed Gromacki to insert sophomore Kim Fiorentino into the game after her 15-game absence due to injury.

The Jeffs’ 34-point margin of victory was particularly impressive in light of the fact that the team, outside of Dunleavy, went 26-72 from the field. But they more than made up for it by holding Bates to 14-57 shooting, out rebounding them 57-31, and dishing out 18 dimes to Bates’ seven.

Dunleavy poured in a game-high 17 points on 5-6 shooting, McCormick chipped in with 12 points, eight boards and three blocks and Stedman and first-year Marcia Voigt contributed ten points apiece.

In the match up of the top two teams in the tournament, Colby showed significant progress from their last meeting with the Jeffs, when they were embarrassed 84-63 on their home court. But just like every other game this season, the Jeffs proved too much to handle, eking out the victory.

Junior co-captain Sarah Leyman went to the bench early on after she picked up two fouls three minutes into the game, but the platoon of McCormick, Voigt and sophomore Jackie Renner filled in capably, combining to out-rebound the Mules 16-15 in the first half. However, fouls continued to haunt the Jeffs, as a five-point advantage from the line kept the Mules in the game, whittling away a double-digit Amherst lead to 34-26 heading into the half.

Colby scored four quick ones to pull to within four at the start of the half, but Amherst responded with an 8-3 run to regain their edge. Back-to-back treys by Stedman and Voigt gave Amherst a 48-34 lead with 9:02 to go. The Mules used an 8-0 run of their own to claw back into the game, at 52-46.

But the Jeffs had the last word, as sophomore Shannon Finucane scored 11 points in the final 5:17, compared to Colby’s eight. Finucane ended with 21 points, on 5-6 shooting from the field and 8-8 shooting from the line. Stedman, Voigt and Leyman all also topped double-digits for the Jeffs. Amherst tallied nine blocks for the game, with Renner stuffing five on her own.

By far the most impressive stat of the game came from the free-throw line, as the Jeffs shot a ridiculous 23-25 from the stripe. “There is always an emphasis to get to the line especially now that games are more and more important to win,” said Finucane. “We knew we were going to have to shoot well from the line down the stretch and it’s nice to finally have a game like this.”

As impressive as 27 straight wins has been, Amherst’s record counts for nothing in the long haul of the NCAA championships — the only numbers that matter now are 6-0, the record Amherst would need for the national title. “We’re so excited about winning a NESCAC championship, but we always keep in mind that our major goal is to win a National Championship and that we still have three weeks of hard work to accomplish that goal,” said Leyman.

Issue 17, Submitted 2010-03-03 04:37:44