Dominant squads to square off in semis
Four teams battle for spot in Saturday's national championship
HOLLAND, Mich. -- The four teams that have advanced to Friday's Division III Women's Basketball semifinals have more semifinal appearances than they have losses this season. And two of those teams have won more national championships than they have lost games this season.
Amherst, Wisconsin-Whitewater, Williams and DePauw have a combined 11 semifinal appearances, while those four teams have lost a combined nine game in 2012-13. Amherst and DePauw have won two National Championships between them -- DePauw in 2007 and Amherst in 2011 -- and have just one loss between them this season.
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Amherst which, with a record of 31-1 is making its fifth consecutive semifinal appearance, is scheduled to face Wisconsin-Whitewater, which at 25-6 is making its second semifinal appearance at 5:30 p.m. ET Friday at DeVos Fieldhouse on the campus of Hope. Undefeated (32-0) DePauw, which has qualified for the semifinal for the third time, is scheduled to take on 26-2 Williams, which is playing in its first semifinal, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Amherst lost to George Fox in last year's semifinals, a loss that ended the Jeffs' 50-game winning streak. “This is a different team,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “Six seniors and the Player of the Year in the country (Caroline Stedman) graduated, so this is definitely a new team. We had good players coming back this year and some good young players as well. We'll be better compared to our other teams after the [semifinals].”
Amherst extended its home winning streak to 86 games this season. “This is a very resilient team,” Gromacki said. “They work hard and we play tough defense. That is probably what we do best.”
The Jeffs will take on a Wisconsin-Whitewater team that ended Hope's aspirations of playing in the semifinals on its home floor. “They have a strong program,” Gromacki said of the Warhawks, who were third in the nation in 2008. “Every team at this point is pretty good, though.”
Williams coach Pat Manning and her Ephs may be making their first semifinal appearance, but Manning is in her 22nd season so she knows what to expect from coach Kris Huffman's squad. “DePauw is an incredible team,” Manning said. “I have great respect for Kris, she does an incredible job. DePauw has had great tournament runs and has won a national championship so we'll have our hands full.”
A tight-knit group of six seniors has led Williams to its first semifinal. “This is pretty exciting,” Manning said. “This team is incredibly special. Our six seniors have been through a lot together. They are a cohesive group and the other eight players on the team have totally bought in to it. The strength of our senior class has brought this group together. These seniors just want to enjoy playing. They are low-maintenance; they just show up and play. There are great personalities on this team. I don't know if I have had more fun with a team.”
Friday's winners are scheduled to meet in the national championship game, scheduled for 7 p.m. ET Saturday.