HOLLAND, Mich. — St. Thomas (Minn.) rode the outside shooting of Ali Johnson and the inside play of Maggie Weiers to a 87-60 victory against Amherst, Saturday in the third-place game of the NCAA tournament.
Johnson, a senior guard, nailed six 3-point baskets, five of them in the first half, in scoring a career-high 24 points.
Weiers, a sophomore center, added 21 points as the Tommies ended their season with a 31-2 record.
The defending national champion Lord Jeffs, who had a 50-game winning streak snapped in Friday’s semifinal against George Fox, finished 31-2. They suffered losses in consecutive games for the first time since the 2009 national championships in Holland.
St. Thomas coach Ruth Sinn said her team used Friday’s semifinal loss to Illinois Wesleyan as a learning experience.
“We felt we let ourselves down (against Illinois Wesleyan),” Sinn said. “We set out with the goal of ‘I don’t care what the scoreboard says.’ We wanted to make sure we were invested in each other and left it all out on the floor.”
Amherst jumped out to a 7-1 lead a little more than two minutes into the game, but then Johnson caught fire. She rained in five triples in a little more than 10 minutes, including a pair of stepback 3-pointers, as the Tommies roared ahead, 36-16, with five minutes remaining in the first half.
“My teammates had confidence in me. They got me the ball, and I let it fly,” said Johnson, who came into the contest with averaging 6.4 points per game. “We were playing for each other. I can’t imagine a better way to go out as a senior.”
Amherst mounted a run before halftime, capped off by a runner in the lane by Caroline Stedman at the buzzer, cutting the St. Thomas lead to 43-32. The Lord Jeffs twice pulled to within nine early in the second half, before the Tommies pulled away.
Johnson’s sixth 3-pointer and Sarah Smith’s conventional 3-point play highlighted a 16-5 run that blew the game open midway through the second half, as St. Thomas opened up a 75-51 .
“I’m proud of my team. We picked a bad time to have a bad weekend. We give a lot of credit to St. Thomas,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “We had a little bit of a lead, but they broke out and made some threes and got it rolling.”
St. Thomas made 46 percent of its shots from the field(25 of 54), while limiting Amherst to 32 percent (22 of 68). The Tommies also made 31 of 37 (84 percent) from the line, compared to 13 of 26 for the Lord Jeffs.
Lem Atanga McCormick led Amherst with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Stedman added 12 points.
Amherst was playing in its fourth consecutive Final Four, tying the run of four consecutive Final Fours by Washington-St.Louis from 1998-2001.
The 87 points were the most scored all season against Amherst, which had held opponents to an average of 46 points per game entering championship weekend.