Courtesy of Amherst Sports Information
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Amherst College women's basketball team capped its 2016-17 season with the program's second-ever NCAA Division III National Championship following a 52-29 win over NESCAC rival Tufts University at Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
With the win, Amherst completes its historic season 33-0 overall and claims the program's second-ever national championship (2011). This is Amherst's first-ever undefeated season and second national crown under 10th-year head coach G.P. Gromacki. Tufts concludes its superb season as the national runner-up with an overall record of 30-3 having lost to the Purple & White three times in 2016-17.
After nearly four minutes of scoreless basketball to open the first quarter, Ali Doswell opened the scoring for Amherst with a layup at the 6:03 mark to give the Purple & White a 2-0 lead. Following a pair of missed free throws by Tufts, Meredith Doswell swished a three-pointer at the 4:46 mark to give Amherst a 5-0 advantage. The Jumbos scored their first bucket at the 2:21 mark on a nice drive by Erica DeCandido, but the Purple & White answered with a jumper by Ali Doswell less than 30 seconds later to set the score at 7-2. From there, Amherst was able to hold its five-point advantage for the duration of the quarter. Emma McCarthy led all players with three boards in the first 10 minutes, while the Purple & White defense limited Tufts to 10% shooting from the field.
Amherst found rhythm early in the second stanza as Hannah Hackley powered in a layup at the 8:40 mark, and then sank a long two point jumper on Amherst's following possession following a steal by Jackie Nagle to make it 11-2.
Jaimie Renner then found Nagle for a bucket underneath with 7:27 on the clock to give the Purple & White a 13-2 advantage. Amherst then extended its lead to 18-2 following a layup and a strike from beyond-the-arc by Ali Doswell. Michela North hit a turn-around jumper at the 2:25 mark to end the scoreless drought for Tufts to make it 18-4, but the Purple &White responded when Ali Doswell downed a jumper to make it 20-4. North then added another bucket to make it 20-6 at the end of the half.
Ali Doswell finished with 11 first half points, while Meredith Doswell pulled in five rebounds. Renner dished out three assists as the Purple & White shot 42.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range in the first 20 minutes. Tufts was limited to just 15.8 percent efficiency from the floor.
In the third quarter, Tufts was sparked by a steal by Josie Lee that led to a trey by Melissa Baptista at the 8:52 mark. A mid-range jumper by Jacqueline Knapp on the Jumbos' next possession, and a North jumper pulled Tufts to within seven at 20-13 with 7:21 to play in the frame. A pair of free throws by McCarthy halted the Jumbos' early run, but North answered with a layup to make it 22-15. Two more McCarthy foul shots and a fast-break basket by McCarthy pushed Amherst's lead back to double digits at 26-15 with under five minutes to play in the period. With just under two minutes to play, North delivered a pair from the charity stripe to pull Tufts to within 10 at 29-19 before a trey from Meredith Doswell swelled the Purple & White's lead to 32-19. Two foul shots by Baptista with six seconds left set the score at 32-21 after three quarters.
At the start of the fourth quarter, McCarthy drilled two more free throws, Madeline Eck pulled in a defensive board and scored a layup on the ensuing possession, and Meredith Doswell notched a steal and converted a fast-break bucket to make it 38-21 with 5:59 to play in the contest. A DeCandido jumper made it 38-23, but Ali Doswell answered with a jumper of her own to keep the lead at 17 points (40-23). Two more free throws by McCarthy, and six straight from the stripe by Ali Doswell increased the Purple & White cushion to 48-23 with 3:39 on the clock. After Eck hit one of two from the line, North put in a bucket to make it 49-25. Another Eck free throw gave the Purple & White a 25-point advantage. Amherst continued to excel from the free throw line as Meredith Doswell swished a pair to make it 52-25 as the Purple & White pulled away to their 52-29 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Amherst was led by Ali Doswell who scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while pulling in five rebounds and registering four steals. For her efforts, she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four.
- McCarthy finished with 11 points and five boards, while Meredith Doswell added 10 points and a team-best nine rebounds. She was also named to the all-tournament team.
- Hackley added four points and seven rebounds, while Eck finished with four points in the winning effort.
- Tufts was led by a 14-point, 10-rebound effort from North, while Baptista followed with five points. Lauren Dillon added five boards and four assists in the losing effort.
- Amherst shot 40.5 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 79.2 percent from the free throw line. The Purple & White limited Tufts to just 24.4 percent shooting from the floor, 5.9 percent efficiency from three-point range, and 75 percent shooting from the free throw line.
- Amherst held Tufts to just two points in the first quarter – the third time this season that the Purple & White accomplished that feat during the season, and the second time in the NCAA Tournament.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Prior to Saturday's NCAA championship contest, Amherst and Tufts met twice this season with the Purple & White notching a 36-35 victory in the regular season matchup on Feb. 4 in Medford, Mass. Amherst then earned a 41-37 win in the NESCAC Championship title game to earn its second straight conference crown and the program's seventh overall.
- Amherst and the Jumbos have met once before in NCAA Tournament action as the Purple & White edged Tufts, 47-42 in NCAA Third Round action in 2013.
- Saturday marked Amherst's second NCAA Championship title game appearance. The last came in 2011 with the Purple & White clinching the program's first-ever national championship, 64-55 over Washington University – St. Louis.
- The 2016-17 NCAA championship was the first time in NCAA Division III men's and women's basketball history that two teams from the same conference competed for the national title.
- Amherst seniors Ali Doswell, Meredith Doswell and Jaimie Renner conclude their careers with a 114-10 overall record with a two league titles (2016, 2017) and a national championship (2017).