Women’s basketball: Ally Yamada’s outside shooting powering Smith College in Final Four run
|Published: 03-12-2023 12:33 AM
NORTHAMPTON – Ally Yamada squared herself up with the basket, coolly executing a three-point shot that she’d taken thousands of times before. Down in the post, forward Morgan Morrison felt herself relax, if only slightly.
It’s hard to be certain of anything in the NCAA tournament, especially when you’re playing in the Elite 8 with a ticket to your program’s first-ever Final Four appearance on the line. But when Morrison sees Yamada with an open look for a triple? She already knows what’s going to happen next.
“I trust her 100 percent. I actually don't even get ready for the rebound. I kind of just walk away, get back on defense,” Morrison joked after Saturday’s 63-46 win over Trinity in the Division 3 quarterfinals. “Any time I see Ally just wide open the corner, even if there’s a player on her, I know they're not close enough.”
Yamada was unstoppable on Saturday night, coming off the bench with four minutes left in the first quarter and promptly hitting the first four triples she took at the end of the first and beginning of the second periods. She added a jumper for good measure, racking up 11 points over a a five-minute span and forcing a Trinity timeout as the Bantams tried to figure out how on earth to stop the 5-foot-3 junior throwing daggers from the arc.
“We talk about when you're in a flow state or when you're shooting your best, and it's when I'm not really thinking about if it's going in, if it's not going in,” Yamada said. “It’s just the mindset that I have that every shot I take, even if it misses, we have really good (offensive) rebounders and so if I have the opportunity, I just take it.”
Yamada has been a critical part of the Pioneers’ postseason success, both in the NEWMAC tournament and during their NCAA run. Over her last six postseason games, there’s only been one game where she’ shot below 50 percent from 3-point range. She’s gone 23-for-47 over those five games, accounting for 69 of Smith’s points from behind the arc alone.
She’s already etched her name into Smith’s history books – after Saturday’s game, she has 79 triples this season, second-best in program history, and is just five 3s behind tying the record set by Lauren Bondi in the 2018-19 season. After Friday’s game, she’s shooting 43.6 percent from three-point range, also second-best in team history behind Sydney Koh, who went 26-56 (46.4 percent), also in 2018-19.
“The NCAA Tournament is a stage where your big players make big plays. This is how you advance to a Final Four, right?” Smith head coach Lynn Hersey said. “Every team has them. We have, I think multiple, but I think what Ally did these last couple of games, you do have to pause for a minute – I certainly have – and just kind of say wow, this is special. This doesn't happen at our level very much.”
Like Hersey said, Yamada is just one of many special players on this Smith roster. It’s that depth that has allowed it to reach the Final Four. With every new game the Pioneers play, the players get another chance to rise to the occasion and play their best basketball, and right now, there’s nobody shining brighter than Yamada.