Amherst College women head to fifth straight Division III basketball Final Four
AMHERST — The scene at LeFrak Gymnasium after the Amherst College women’s basketball team’s win over Widener University on Saturday was a familiar one for anyone who has followed the program in recent years.
The Jeffs gathered around their coach and watched as a ladder was brought out to one of the rims. A pair of scissors was passed down a line from player to player. Another net — the fifth in as many years — was cut down.
Amherst is headed back to the Final Four.
The Jeffs (30-1) controlled their matchup with the Pride (24-6) from wire-to-wire, taking home the 59-46 victory and punching their ticket to the NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal round.
The win was also the program’s 84th consecutive home win, and made the team’s three seniors — Marcia Voigt, Bridget Crowley and Jasmine Hardy — the winningest graduating class in Division III history.
Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki could not have been more proud of his team after the historic win.
“It was great to watch these guys perform at the highest level tonight,” he said. “It was key play after key play. The seniors really stepped up in this game for us, numerous plays you could talk about for a lifetime.”
Of those seniors, Crowley was especially dominant. With Widener unable to counter her presence in the post, she scored 17 points, blocked three shots and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds.
“We knew that our advantage was going to be in the post coming into the game,” Crowley said. “Right from the get-go that was our focus, trying to exploit that. Personally, for me, it was a matter of making sure I was taking the right shots.”
Voigt, too, was on target when it mattered most, scoring 16 of her game-high 19 points in the second half. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists.
And it was Hardy who put the final nail in the coffin with a straightaway 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left in the game to push the Jeffs’ lead back into double-digits and break up the Pride’s final comeback attempt.
After losing six seniors to graduation last year, including 2012 Division III national player of the year Caroline Stedman, there were questions as to whether Amherst could keep its streak alive.
“When you lose six seniors that were very important to your program and (were) special people, it’s tough to replace them,” Gromacki said. “We had a lot of question marks coming into the season (but) we knew we had some talent. Part way through the season we had some close games, kind of up and down. But a couple games turned it around and, personally, I thought ‘This team can do it.’ ”
The Jeffs head to Holland, Mich., where they will face the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater at 5:30 p.m. Friday. DePauw University and Williams College face off in the other semifinal.
“Our goal is a national championship,” Gromacki said. “No class has won two at Amherst — these guys have a chance to do that.”