March 13, 2009

AMHERST, MA - The Amherst College women's basketball team played host to New York University this evening in the 2009 Sectional Semifinal Round at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass. The Lord Jeffs punched a ticket into the "Elite 8" for the first time in program history with a 74-51 win. Amherst will face Brandeis tomorrow at 6 p.m.

This marks the second straight season that the Lord Jeffs have reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, while NYU entered the game with an impressive 23-4 record.

Amherst jumped out of the gate on fire, opening up a quick 5-0 lead on a three from sophomore Courtney Long (Norwich, CT). After a pair of Megan Fox free throws put the Violets on the board, Amherst rolled off another six straight points to take an 11-2 lead with 14:44 to play in the first half.

NYU closed the gap to 14-10 with just under 12 minutes to play, as Chelsea Blake finished off a three-point play the old fashioned way. Amherst responded with back-to-back scores from first-year Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) and sophomore Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH).

The Amherst lead sat at 20-11 with eight minutes to play in the first, before the two teams traded scoreless possessions. Leyman finished a nice scoop shot in the lane with 6:55 to play, before Jen Hum-Traverso answered for the Violets.

With 5:30 to play, Long hit a nice mid-range jumper in the paint to put Amherst ahead 24-13, only to see Blake answer right back for NYU. On Amherst's next possession, Long beat the shot clock with a beautiful reverse lay-up off a feed from Leyman.

The Lord Jeffs had a 13-point lead with two minutes to play, before NYU's Gena Brown knocked down a three from the left wing in transition. The triple cut the Amherst advantage to 28-18. An Emily Foshag reverse for NYU cut the deficit to seven points, before Amherst rookie Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) made a three for the final score of the half.

At the break, Amherst was up 32-22, as Long led all players with 10 points, while Finucane and Leyman combined for 15 points. Blake was the leading scorer for the Violets at the half with five points. Amherst was shooting 46.7% from the field, while the Violets were just 6-of-23 for 26.1% in the half.

NYU scored the first four points of the second half, forcing Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki to call a timeout with 17:57 to play. After the stoppage, the Jeffs went to Leyman in the post on the entry pass for a quick score. NYU responded with a three from the left corner by Foshag.

First-year Shannon Finucane finished with a game-high 18 points, eight assists and three steals in the Jeffs' win over NYU. The Violets closed the gap to 34-31 moments later on a pair of free throws by Grace Carmen. A score on the left block by Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) put Amherst up 36-31, before Jessica McEntee scored for NYU.

On Amherst's next offensive possession, Daigneault finished off an assist from Leyman to put Amherst ahead 38-33. Daigneault knocked down a three from the left wing on a second-chance opportunity on the Lord Jeff's next trip. With 12:38 to play, Finucane made a runner in the lane to put Amherst up 43-35, before Christine Kilmurray scored three-points the hard way for NYU.

After a pair of free throws from Finucane, and a lay-up by Daigneault, NYU's Kilmurray was whistled for an offensive foul and then a technical. Finucane made the two free throws for the technical, before senior co-captain Amanda Otieno (Gloucester, MA) stepped up for a pair at the line after taking a hard foul on the ensuing possession.

The flurry of scoring put Amherst up 51-39 with nearly 11 minutes to play in the second half. After a stop on the defensive end, Finucane scored on a runner in the lane to force NYU into a timeout. The Violets got their next points on a pair of free throws by Blake at the 10:09 mark, ending a 10-0 Amherst run over nearly a two minute span.

Over the next three minutes, Amherst opened up a 58-43 lead. With 4:21 to play, Finucane made a nice left-handed lay-up on a drive to put Amherst up 60-45. After an NYU free throw, Amherst beat the Violets' full-court press as Finucane found Leyman for an open lay-up in transition.

Amherst increased its lead down the stretch, before dribbling out the clock on NYU, and taking home a 74-51 victory. Finucane led all players with 18 points for Amherst, while Leyman added 16 and seven rebounds. Amherst also got a combined 24 points from Daigneault and Long, while Otieno pulled in 10 rebounds. NYU failed to put a player in double-digits, with Carmen leading the way with nine points.

With the win, Amherst improves to 28-2, setting a new program record for wins in a season (27-4 in 2007-08). The Jeffs advance to tomorrow's NCAA Round of 8, where they will face Brandeis at 6 p.m., with Amherst playing in the National Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.