Women’s Basketball Clinches NESCAC Title
By Amro El-Adle '13, co-Editor-in-Chief
Moments after the men’s basketball team lost in Williams’ Chandler Gym, the women’s basketball team took to the floor, emerging with the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship. Coupled with a win over Middlebury earlier in the week, the Jeffs have collected a 23-1 record, including a 9-0 stampede through the conference.

In their first NESCAC road game against the Panthers, senior co-captain Jaci Daigneault led the way for the women’s team, picking up 20 points and nine rebounds in a 63-43 rout for the Jeffs.

Against a Panthers’ team that slowed the game to a grind, the Jeffs struggled with their shooting in the first half. In fact, Middlebury’s strategy of limiting the Jeffs’ possessions worked wonders during that first frame, as they managed to hold Amherst to 25 points. Stifled offensively, the Jeffs clamped down defensively, swiping six steals from their opposition and forcing 14 turnovers in the half to go into the break leading 25-16.

The teams traded baskets to start the second half, before the Panthers cut the Amherst lead down to 31-23 at the 15:22 mark. From there, however, they struggled to match the Jeffs’ energy, as Amherst pushed the pace to pull away. The Jeffs scored 38 points in the second frame, with 21 of those coming in a decisive 10-minute span to put Middlebury away for good. That run was loaded with fastbreak points, with the Jeffs taking advantage of Williams’ turnovers.

Daigneault had her usually efficient night, going 8-14 from the floor, in addition to grabbing four of her nine boards on the offensive glass. Caroline Stedman ’12, Shannon Fincuane ’12 and co-captain Sarah Leyman ’11 combined for 21 points, with Stedman making up for a subpar shooting effort with seven rebounds, three steals and a career-high four blocks.

“I think the team has been playing well, but we have not yet reached our fullest potential,” sophomore forward Bridget Crowley pointed out. “Right now we are focused and taking the season game by game, working to come out on top.”

Against the Ephs, the Jeffs won by a smaller margin, their 66-55 victory fueled in large part by an 8-0 surge to start the second half. Even though they had already locked up the top seed in the NESCAC Championship by the time they played the Ephs, the Jeffs showed up ready to play, besting the Ephs for a seventh-consecutive time. “It’s always great beating Williams,” noted Finucane. “It is even more sweet when it is their senior night and at Williams.”

Amherst looked strong in the early going, starting the game on a 10-2 run with five consecutive layups. The Jeffs caught fire in the first half, shooting a blistering 54 percent from the field on a steady diet of easy layups. However, the Ephs kept within striking distance, using a barrage of three pointers, and a few key offensive rebounds, to keep pace with the Jeffs.

Leading 33-29 at the break, the Jeffs saw their lead trimmed to two after Williams scored a quick basket, before they took control of the game with an 8-0 run. Both Stedman and Kim Fiorentino ’12 hit three-pointers during the turnaround, which left the Jeffs out in front 41-31 with just over 17 minutes to play.

The Jeffs failed to replicate the shooting proficiency they showed off in the first half during the second, but they nonetheless came up with huge baskets when it mattered. Williams came within five points on several occasions, including once with just over three minutes left in regulation, but Leyman and Jackie Renner ’12 scored on back-to-back possesions to push the lead back up to five, before Williams was forced to foul and inflate the score.

The Jeffs will face off against Trinity on Saturday, at 4 p.m., in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament. As the top seed, the Jeffs should have the easiest route to the championship. But, as Fiorentino pointed out, “Our biggest challenge right now is to not look past the next game. Preparation is the key. We need to practice hard so that we can execute on game day.”

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 18:53:19