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Amherst College women advance to Elite 8 with win over Tufts

  • Megan Robertson of Amherst, left, fights for a rebound against Hayley Kanner of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Megan Robertson of Amherst, left, fights for a rebound against Hayley Kanner of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marcia Voigt of Amherst looks to pass the ball under pressure from Kelsey Morehead of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Marcia Voigt of Amherst looks to pass the ball under pressure from Kelsey Morehead of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Haley Zwecker of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Liz Moynihan of Tufts during during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Haley Zwecker of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Liz Moynihan of Tufts during during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jasmine Hardy of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Bre Dufault of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Jasmine Hardy of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Bre Dufault of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Megan Robertson of Amherst, left, fights for a rebound against Hayley Kanner of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Marcia Voigt of Amherst looks to pass the ball under pressure from Kelsey Morehead of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Haley Zwecker of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Liz Moynihan of Tufts during during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Jasmine Hardy of Amherst, right, moves the ball down the court while being defended by Bre Dufault of Tufts during the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday at Lefrak Gymnasium.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

AMHERST — It wasn’t pretty, but the Amherst College women’s basketball team gutted its way into another Elite 8 appearance with a hard-fought 47-42 win over Tufts University in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday.

The Lord Jeffs (29-1) came into their third-round matchup at LeFrak Gymnasium having won their previous two tournament games against the University of New England and Farmingdale State by 37 and 28 points, respectively.

But the Jumbos (25-3) gave Amherst everything it could handle, holding it to 26.7 percent shooting and closing to within two points with 3 minutes, 50 seconds to play. With their offense struggling, the Lord Jeffs relied on free throws and defense to close out the tight victory.

“What a battle,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “Tufts gave it everything they had. They’re a great team, and we knew it was gonna be a difficult matchup. But our team stepped up many times tonight when it didn’t look so good (and) people made big plays.”

Most of those big plays came on defense, where the Lord Jeffs held their opponent to 33.3 percent shooting. Gromacki praised his players for knowing exactly how to handle the attacking Tufts offense late in regulation with the game still in the balance.

“What happened is, they were setting screens, we made some good switches and people got on people they’re not normally guarding,” he said. “Give (our defenders) a lot of credit for being smart student-athletes at Amherst. They knew what to do when they were guarding someone they wouldn’t normally see.”

The Lord Jeffs converted just five of their shots from the field in the second half, including only one basket in the final 11:25 of play. Though Amherst’s attempts from the field weren’t falling, it shot 18 of 21 from the free-throw line to keep things from slipping away.

“Credit Tufts’ defense, and we were rushing a few shots,” Gromacki said. “We had some decent looks, especially from 3, and we just couldn’t buy one. But I think we rushed a few shots, for sure.”

Bridget Crowley was the only Amherst player to reach double digits with 10 points. She also pulled down six rebounds and helped to contain Jumbos center Hayley Kanner, who finished with a game-high 12 points and seven rebounds.

“I just think she has so much finesse down there,” Crowley said. “And, unlike a lot of post players that we see, she can use her left (hand) just as well as her right. I think that presented a challenge to us in the beginning and throughout the middle of the second half.”

Though Amherst couldn’t muster much of anything offensively, Crowley said her teammates remained focused and positive.

“We really have stressed, all year, maintaining our confidence in each other throughout the game, even when things get tough,” she said. “Our focus has really been, when are shots aren’t falling, we have to make sure we keep believing in each other.”

Megan Robertson, who finished with eight points and nine rebounds, agreed.

“You could kind of tell that we weren’t hitting the shots that we typically get, so we just had to buckle down on defense. We knew our matchups and executed on the defensive end to keep it under control.”

The Lord Jeffs will host Widener University at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Widener beat Messiah 67-52 on Friday.

A win against the Pride would send the Lord Jeffs back to the Final Four for a fifth-consecutive year.

“You gotta gut out wins, it doesn’t matter how you get them,” Gromacki said. “We’re focused, this team’s pretty determined on the task at hand right now. They’re just thinking about ‘Let’s get another one tomorrow.’”

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