MEDFORD, Mass. -- Tufts won its first New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship with a 62-46 victory against Amherst at Couses Gym Sunday afternon. Junior Hayley Kanner scored 21 points to lead the champs.
Tufts trailed 5-0 early in the game, but erased that deficit and led for the final 31 minutes of play. Kanner and first-year Michela North were too much for Amherst to handle under the basket. North added 10 points and 14 rebounds off the bench. Junior point guard Kelsey Morehead played all 40 minutes scoring 10 points and senior tri-captain Liz Moynihan also finished with 10.
The Jumbos (26-1) matched the school record for victories, tying the 2007-08 team that finished 26-4. Tufts earns the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA championship field, which will be announced on Monday.
Amherst (24-3), led by 15 points from Marley Giddins, saw its streak of four consecutive conference titles end. The Lord Jeffs were playing in the NESCAC final for the seventh consecutive year. They will likely earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
Desite shooting just 18.2 percent (4 of 22) in the first half, the Lord Jeffs hung around. They were within six three times in the final five minutes of the half, including 27-21 after a pair of Hannah Peterson free throws at 2:06.
Tufts held a 29-22 margin at the half, shooting just 29 percent (9 of 31) themselves. Kanner had 11 points at the break for the Jumbos and Giddins led Amherst with nine.
The Jumbos were up by 13 (46-33) when the clock wound down under 10 minutes to go in regulation. Amherst clawed back to within eight at 50-42 following an Ali Doswell free throw with 4:41 remaining. She had four points during the 7-2 spurt by the Lord Jeffs.
Tufts had an answer though, and it was Kanner scoring the 20 and 21st points of her game on a layup to give Tufts a 52-42 advantage at 4:41. Amherst turned the ball over on its next possesion and the Jumbos would lead by double-digits the rest of the way.
The Tufts defense was key again, holding Amherst to 12 of 42 shooting (28.6 percent) overall. Tufts was plus-four in rebounds, with junior Hannah Foley adding five to go with seven points, two assists and two steals. Moynihan led with four assists.
Peterson added 10 points to the Amherst offense, while Haley Zwecker finished with nine.