Undefeated Amherst pulls away from Babson, advances to NCAA Division III Tournament Elite Eight

  • Belchertown native Téa Spellacy, of Babson, dribbles the ball against Amherst during its NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet 16 game, Friday at Amherst. JAMIE CUSHMAN

  • Granby native Meghan Sullivan, of Amherst College, drives against Babson during its NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet 16 game, Friday at Amherst. JAMIE CUSHMAN

For the Gazette
Published: 3/10/2017 11:16:57 PM

AMHERST — Midway through the first quarter of its NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet 16 game, the Amherst College women’s basketball team had only scored an uncharacteristic 2 points.

Then a 3-pointer by Emma McCarthy sparked a 15-0 run for Amherst, which held on to the lead for the rest of the night, beating Babson 63-39 on Friday.

Top-ranked Amherst (30-0) advances to the Elite Eight, where it will host UMass Dartmouth (24-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki credited his seniors — twin sisters Ali and Meredith Doswell, and Jaimie Renner — for weathering the early storm and then taking control of the game.

“We didn’t panic and we have a lot of leadership on this team, and again they stepped up. We tightened the defense, that was the difference, then we just made a couple more shots,” Gromacki said.

Amherst led 19-8 after the first quarter. The teams played evenly over the middle two frames, with Babson working the deficit down to 35-32 midway through the third after a 7-0 run.

A 9-2 run for Amherst following a timeout and put the lead at 10 entering the fourth quarter. Amherst sealed the win, outscoring the Beavers 19-5 in the final frame.

“I think we took our time more in the fourth quarter, tried to get the right shots up, find the open person,” Ali Doswell said. “People driving in took their time and then dished out down to Emma (McCarthy), and she was ready and made the layups.”

McCarthy finished with a team-high 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds.

“They just found me in the paint and when I hit those two 3s in the beginning, Coach has been telling me I’m going to have to step up and shoot some, so tonight I guess they were just falling and we just executed well,” McCarthy said.

Ali Doswell stuffed the stat sheet for Amherst, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, and a team-high six assists.

The team’s leading scorer all season, Doswell has watched a different Amherst player lead the team in scoring in each NCAA tournament game so far.

“Our team is special in that we have all five of us starters and beyond that can score,” Doswell said. “So when they come in, the other team’s going to have to play five people the whole time, so it makes it difficult.”

Hannah Hackley and Meredith Doswell also finished in double figures for Amherst, tallying 11 points each.

The Beavers for the most part did well to stop Amherst from scoring early in the shot clock, but the two-time defending NESCAC champions found ways to get open late in the possession, which Babson guard Giovanna Pickering said was very frustrating.

“I think Amherst is one of those teams where you can have a really good defensive possession, but you take your eye off or you ball-watch for a second and they’re going to capitalize on it, so they did that tonight,” Pickering said.

The Pioneer Valley was represented in both locker rooms on Friday.

Belchertown High School’s all-time leading scorer Téa Spellacy played nine minutes off the bench for Babson, tallying an assist and a steal.

On the other side, Granby native Meghan Sullivan checked in for Amherst for the final 2:36 of the game, grabbing a rebound.

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