Amherst Slips to Washington-St. Louis 65-49 in NCAA Women's Basketball Semifinals

Amherst Slips to Washington-St. Louis 65-49 in NCAA Women's Basketball Semifinals

Courtesy Amherst Sports Information

HOLLAND, Mich. – The Amherst College women’s basketball team opened up play at the 2009 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship weekend this afternoon facing off against the Bears of Washington University in St. Louis. The two sides traded runs in the first half, but early in the second frame the Bears used a 16-2 run to power a 65-49 win. The Jeffs fall to 29-3, and will end their season when they face TCNJ in the Consolation Game. Tip-off in the third place game starts at 10 a.m.

Amherst took center court at the DeVos Fieldhouse on the campus of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, putting forward its young and talented starting line-up of first-years Shannon Finucane (Cortland, N.Y.) and Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, N.J.), with sophomores Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, Conn.), Courtney Long (Norwich, Conn.) and Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, Ohio).

After Wash-U started the game with three straight points, Amherst responded with a three off an inbound play to Fiorentino. After a score from Janice Evans put the Bears up 5-3, Finucane drilled another three to put Amherst up 6-5. Coming out of the first media timeout, Amherst’s lead sat at 8-7 with nearly 16 minutes to play in the half.

Neither team scored for over four minutes, until Long knocked down back-to-back triples from the left wing. The 6-0 scoring run from Long put the Lord Jeffs up 14-7 with 12:08 to play in the first half. Wash.-U. grabbed a pair of free throws from Kelsey Robb at the 11:46 mark, cutting Amherst’s lead down to five points. On the Bears’ next trip, Robb scored inside to leave the Jeffs up 14-11.

At the mid-point of the first half, Amherst’s lead sat at just 14-13, before Wash.-U. regained the lead on a slashing drive down the lane by Jill Brandt. Leyman tied the game 15-15 with a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line, before grabbing a steal on the next defensive possession for Amherst.

After Fiorentino missed a runner in the lane, the Amherst rookie drew an offensive foul on Robb, who pulled down the rebound, before being called for throwing an elbow. Dani Hoover broke the tie in the Bears’ favor, scoring on a drive down the left side.

The Bears opened up a 19-15 lead, before first-year Caroline Stedman (Walpole, Mass.) hit a three from the right wing. Amherst re-gained the lead 20-19 on a transition pull-up jumper by Long. With 3:42 to play, the final media timeout of the half was called with the score knotted up 20-20, and Wash.-U.’s Hannah Cusworth heading to the line. Cusworth made 1-of-2, before Zoe Unruh drilled a deep two from the left corner to put the Bears 23-20.

First-year Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, Ill.) scored her first points of the game, before Shanna-Lei Decanay beat the halftime buzzer to send Amherst to the locker room trailing 27-22. At the break, Long led all players with eight points, while Unruh paced the Bears with six.

The Bears scored the first four points of the second half to open up a 31-22 lead with 18:25 to play, before Daigneault responded with a score inside. After a pair of Hoover free throws and a three from Unruh, Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki was forced to call a timeout with 17:03 to play, trailing 36-24.

With 15:52 to play in the second half, Amherst’s shooting woes continued as they trailed 39-25, and had made just 9-of-37 attempts in the game. The Jeffs looked inside for an answer on the next trip, where Leyman drew a foul before knocking down two free throws. Amherst cut the deficit to 39-29 on a jumper from Atanga McCormick, before senior co-captain Amanda Otieno (Gloucester, Mass.) took a steal off the hands of the Bears. Otieno went the length of the court, before drawing a foul and hitting both free throws.

All of a sudden, Amherst closed the gap to 39-31 with 13:51 to play. After a pair of Robb free throws, Stedman found Otieno for another score to keep Amherst down eight at 41-33. Otieno took a hard foul driving to the basket with 12:21 to play, and once again, made a pair at the charity stripe to close the gap to 41-35.

Wash.-U. responded with another pair of free throws from Hoover, before the sophomore guard finished a off a score on the Bears’ next possession. Wash.-U. went on an 8-0 run to open back up a 14-point lead, before Stacy Brossy (Lukachukai, Ariz.) made a jumper from the elbow.

The Bears continued their hot shooting, and opened up a 55-37 lead with six minutes remaining. Atanga McCormick ended a 16-2 Wash.-U. scoring run with a jumper at the 4:16 mark. Atanga McCormick hit a deep two point on the next trip, closing the gap to 57-41.

The margin ballooned back to 61-41, as Gromacki put all four Amherst seniors on the floor to finish the game. Down the stretch, Brossy hit a three, while senior co-captain Yasmine Harik (New York, N.Y.) finished a three-point play the old fashioned way. The Jeffs played hard up to the final whistle, but finished on the losing end of a 65-49 result.

At the end, Long and Atanga McCormick led the Jeffs with eight points apiece, while Daigneault pulled down nine rebounds. Robb led the Bears with 12 points, while Jaimie McFalin pulled down a game-high 15 boards.