AMHERST, Mass. — No. 1 Amherst claimed its third consecutive NESCAC title and fourth in the past five years by pulling away for a 65-39 win against Tufts in Sunday’s championship game.
The teams were tied at 24-24 at the break, but Amherst opened the second half on a 20-4 run and never let Tufts back in the game. The Lord Jeffs increased their overall win streak to 63 and have now won 46 consecutive games in LeFrak Gymnasium.
Amherst improved to 27-0 on the season and will receive the NESCAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. At 21-6, Tufts has made a strong case to receive one of the at-large bids.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 1 Amherst 61, Tufts 39|
|No. 13 Babson 74, Smith 51|
|No. 15 Franklin 64, Hanover 44|
|Concordia (Texas) 73 No. 21 La. College 64|
Caroline Stedman and Marcia Voigt paced Amherst in scoring for the second time in as many days, with Stedman’s 17 points leading all players and Voigt adding 13 off the bench. Kim Fiorentino had five steals and two blocks to spearhead a Lord Jeff defense that held Tufts to 19 percent shooting in the second half.
Tufts accounted for the game’s first six points and held Amherst scoreless for three minutes, but the Lord Jeffs found their rhythm and took an 8-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Lem Atanga McCormick. Hannah Foley pushed right back and knocked down a pair of threes for the Jumbos, bringing the score to 12-8 in favor of the visitors.
Threes by Stedman and Fiorentino put Amherst back ahead, and the Jeffs would hold their lead until a pair of free throws by Liz Moynihan made it a 24-22 game in favor of the Jumbos with 2:12 remaining in the half. A Stedman layup with 1:53 to go marked the final points of the period, as Tufts had a 21-12 rebounding edge and held the Jeffs to 32 percent shooting.
The Jumbos’ nationally-ranked defense held Amherst to its second lowest first-half point total of the season, but the Jeffs used exceptional defense from Fiorentino to break a 26-26 tie with a 14-0 run. Voigt took over on the offensive end and accounted for eight consecutive points during the pivotal stretch, as Amherst suddenly led 40-26 with 14:16 remaining.
The dagger came with 5:51 left in regulation, as Megan Robertson pulled down an offensive rebound and got fouled on an up-and-under move, converting the three-point play to make it a 58-32 game in favor of the hosts. Amherst led by at least 21 the rest of the way, outscoring the Jumbos by a 41-15 margin in the second period.
Kate Barnosky led Tufts in points (nine) and rebounds (nine), while Moynihan added seven points off the bench and Tiffany Kornegay chipped in with seven boards. The Lord Jeffs shot 60 percent in the second half while holding the Jumbos to 5-26 from the floor.
In addition to her outstanding defensive efforts, Fiorentino provided Amherst with eight points, five rebounds and four assists. Atanga McCormick added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a 2-2 performance from behind the arc.