Amherst Aims for Third Straight NESCAC Women's Basketball Title

Amherst Aims for Third Straight NESCAC Women's Basketball Title

HADLEY, Mass. – For the third consecutive season, the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5 seeds in the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship have advanced through to the semifinals. Top-seeded Amherst will host the semifinals and final at LeFrak Gymnasium for the second straight season. On Saturday, February 24, the Mammoths will meet No. 5 Wesleyan in the first semifinal at 1 p.m. and will be followed by No. 2 Bowdoin versus No. 3 Tufts at 3 p.m. The semifinal winners will square off in the championship game at Noon on Sunday, February 25.

CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL

Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for students/seniors, and free for children two and under. Tickets will go on sale at Noon at the outdoor entrance to LeFrak Gymnasium, between Alumni Gym and Orr Rink. Doors to the game will open at Noon. Both semifinals and the championship game will be webcast via NSN at NESCAC.com. Streams are also available through Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV (search for NESCAC).

The first semifinal pits two of the top defenses in the league against each other. Amherst is holding opponents to a league-best 28.1 percent shooting from the floor, while Wesleyan is limiting opponents to 33.9 percent shooting from the field, ranking third in the NESCAC.

Amherst (25-0), the two-time defending champions, held No. 8 Trinity to five field goals over the final three quarters to post a 56-34 quarterfinal victory and win its 58th consecutive game. The Mammoths, who have won seven NESCAC titles overall, are the top defensive team in the league, holding opponents to 39.2 points per game. Sophomores Madeline Eck (Rye, N.Y.) and Hannah Fox (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) lead a balanced attack for the Mammoths, averaging 11.8 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. Junior Emma McCarthy (Shelton, Conn.) is the team’s top rebounder at 7.2 per game and chips in 9.6 points per game.

Senior forward Maddie Bledsoe (Newton, Mass.) posted game-highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds to lift No. 5 Wesleyan (17-7) past No. 4 Middlebury, 63-62, in the quarterfinals. The Cardinals, who have recorded their most wins since the 2007-08 season, are in the semifinals for the first time since 2008. Bledsoe is one of four Cardinals averaging double figures this season, as she averages a double-double of 10.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Junior Olivia Gorman (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) is the leading scorer for the Cardinals at 13.3 points per game, while junior Tara Berger (Purchase, N.Y.) and senior Maeve Vitale (Roswell, Ga.) are chipping in 10.5 and 10.0 points per game, respectively. The Cardinals lead the league in rebounding (45.5) and rank second in scoring at 68.3 points per game. Wesleyan has never won a NESCAC title.

The Mammoths defeated the Cardinals twice during the regular season, winning 64-40 at home and 66-51 on the road. Amherst is 2-0 against the Cardinals in the NESCAC Championship series. The two teams last met in the 2010 quarterfinals, with Amherst registering a 57-36 victory.

Bowdoin (24-1) and Tufts (22-3), two of the highest scoring teams in the conference, will meet in the semifinals for the second straight season. The Polar Bears are scoring 82.6 points per game to lead the league, while the Jumbos rank third, averaging 67.5 points per game.

The second-seeded Polar Bears cruised to a 77-35 win over No. 7 Williams to reach the semifinals for the 18th consecutive season. Senior Kate Kerrigan (Wellesley Hills, Mass.) paced Bowdoin with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. Junior Abby Kelly (Bombay, N.Y.) leads a balanced attack for Bowdoin, averaging 12.2 points per game off the bench. Kerrigan nets 10.2 points per game, and leads the team in rebounding (6.5) and assists (4.2), while shooting 53.3 from the field. Bowdoin posted its best regular season record (23-1) since the 2006-07 season, with its lone loss being a 49-45 setback at Amherst. The Polar Bears have won eight NESCAC titles.

Tufts advanced to the semifinals for the sixth straight season with an 85-48 quarterfinal victory over No. 6 Connecticut College. Senior Melissa Baptista (Somerville, Mass.) led all scorers with 21 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists and moved into third among Tufts’ all-time leading scorers. Junior Jac Knapp (Westfield, N.J.) (15), senior Lauren Dillon (Wellesley, Mass.) (13) and sophomore Erica DeCandido (North Wales, Pa.) (12) also reached double figures for the Jumbos. DeCandido, who leads the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game, returned to the lineup in the quarterfinals after a five-game absence due to injury. Baptista is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.0 points per game, and is the top rebounder for the Jumbos at 6.9 per contest, which ranks fourth in the league. Tufts ranks second in the NESCAC in steals, collecting an average of 10.9 per game. The Jumbos are looking to advance to the championship game for the fifth straight year and seek their third NESCAC Championship.

Bowdoin handed Tufts one of its two league losses with a 66-53 victory in Brunswick, Maine on the opening weekend of conference play. The two teams have met seven times in the NESCAC postseason with Bowdoin owning a 4-3 advantage. In their last meeting, the 2017 semifinals, Tufts held off the Polar Bears for a 49-44 win.

Results for the NESCAC Women’s Basketball Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.