Amherst College women’s basketball downs Tufts for NESCAC title

  • Amherst College guard Jaimie Renner surveys the Tufts defense Saturday at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst. Amherst beat Tufts for the NESCAC Championship. Renner finished with four points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. GAZETTE STAFF / JAMIE CUSHMAN

For the Gazette
Sunday, February 26, 2017

AMHERST — After a rocky first half in which the Amherst College women’s basketball team scored just 10 points, the Amherst offense came alive in the third quarter on the way to a 41-37 win over Tufts in the NESCAC Championship at home Sunday.

After a Tufts jumper to open the second half, Amherst went on a 9-0 run to go ahead followed by a 12-2 to run to close out the period after Tufts briefly retook the lead.

“Shaky first half when you only score 10 points, give their defense some credit, but we didn’t play our game and didn’t have a good flow, and you saw what we can do in the ffsecond half when we can really open it up,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said.

Senior Ali Doswell sparked the third-quarter run for Amherst, scoring 11 of her team-high 16 points in the quarter, off of 5-for-5 shooting from the field.

“She’s an All-American, so she played like it in the second half,” Gromacki said.

Doswell, who also tallied three steals in the third quarter, also helped power Amherst’s defense in setting up the offense for easy buckets.

“I think we took our time more on offense (in the third quarter). Defense, I would say, we really locked in, got some steals, got some easier baskets than in the first half, and we just took our time,” Doswell said.

Six of Tufts’ 15 turnovers came in the third quarter.

Emma McCarthy also stood out for Amherst, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds.

“She was a force down low,” Doswell said. “It’s hard playing against bigger girls in the post, and we keep saying just catch the ball, just catch the ball and then other people open up, and that’s what she did in the first half, especially. She didn’t make it easy down there for their defense.”

Scoring 21 points in the third quarter was a far cry from a first half where Amherst scored just 10 points, shooting 13 percent from the field.

“Our easy little bunnies weren’t sinking in the first half, and we were forcing shots up that we normally don’t force and we weren’t hitting our threes, so we just said keep going in at them,” McCarthy said.

Amherst found success attacking the heart of the Tufts defense, outscoring Tufts 26-16 in the paint.

Amherst and Tufts are no strangers to close matchups at this point. Coming into Sunday the past three games between the two teams all finished as one-point games, including Amherst‘s 50-49 win in last year’s NESCAC Championship.

“It’s a slugfest. Fortunately the last couple we’ve been on top, but it’s a fun matchup to be a part of,” Gromacki said.

“It’s intense,” Doswell said of the games against Tufts. “We look forward to these games every year. It’s fun to be in a league where you have someone like that, something to look forward to in the tournament, knowing you can’t just take it.”

Amherst now waits to find out who it will play in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, a game it, will likely host.

“We’ve got to take each game as it comes, don’t look to the end,” Doswell said. “I know we have our eyes on something big, but we’ve got to make sure that each game we just take it for what it is, make sure we look at the opponents, and just keep playing our basketball.”