BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Amherst knocked off the defending national champions and won its first national championship in school history Saturday night, as the Lord Jeffs defeated Washington at St. Louis 64-55 in the 2011 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship at the Shirk Center.

Amherst’s Caroline Stedman led all scorers with 19 points, while teammate Kim Fiorentino scored 10 points. Jaci Daigneault and Fiorentino each grabbed eight boards for the Jeffs. Washington’s Dani Hoover made 13 points, while Brianne Monahan added 12. The Bears’ Kathryn Berger recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Amherst brought down 46 rebounds, including 18 offensive boards, while Washington (25-6) had 36 rebounds.

After a defensive battle through the first five minutes of the championship game, Amherst (32-1) went on a 9-0 run and held Washington scoreless for more than six minutes to grab a 14-5 advantage with 9:09 left in the first half. The run was fueled by Jackie Renner, who made four of the Lord Jeffs’ nine points. Amherst continued its offensive surge and took its largest lead of the half at 17-7 with a 3-pointer by Lem Atanga McCormick with 6:18 remaining in the half. 

Washington went on a 7-0 run to cut Amherst’s lead to three, 17-14, with three minutes left before the break. The Lord Jeffs answered back by scoring five consecutive points, including a fastbreak layup by Stedman to increase their lead to 22-14. 

The Bears (25-6) finished the half on a 5-0 run that ended with a shot from behind the arc by Monahan with 25 seconds left before intermission. Amherst was not able to score on its final possession and headed into the locker room with a four-point advantage at 24-20 entering the half.

Amherst’s Stedman led all scorers at the half with seven points, while the Jeffs’ Daigneault and McCormick each grabbed three boards in the first half. Berger had six points and eight rebounds for the Bears.

At the start of the second half, Washington was able to maintain its momentum from the first half and went on a 5-0 run to take its first lead of the game 25-24. Amherst regained its lead and went on an 8-3 run that gave the Jeffs a six-point advantage, 35-29, forcing Washington to take a timeout with 11:16 left to play. 

After Washington tied the game 39-39, Amherst went on a 10-1 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lord Jeffs the lead 49-40 with 5:49 remaining. Amherst took its largest lead of the game at 57-44 with 3:28 left to play after McCormick sank a jumper while being fouled and successfully completed the three-point play at the free throw line. 

Members of the 2011 NCAA All-Tournament Team were Nikki Preston (Illinois Wesleyan), Chelsie Schweers (Christopher Newport), Berger (Washington-St. Louis), Daigneault (Amherst) and the most-valuable player was Stedman from Amherst.