GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – No. 1 Amherst advanced to its first NCAA Division III Championship title game since the 2011 season following a 66-51 win over No. 10 Christopher Newport University on Friday evening in NCAA semifinal action at Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
With the win, Amherst improves to 32-0 on the season and will take on NESCAC rival No. 4 Tufts (30-2), on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Van Noord Arena. The Jumbos defeated No. 2 St. Thomas (Minn.) 60-57 in the other semifinal contest. Christopher Newport concludes its season 29-3 overall.
Christopher Newport opened the scoring when Bailey Dufrene converted a layup to give the Captains an early 2-0 edge. Amherst answered with eight straight points as Jaimie Renner, Meredith Doswell, Ali Doswell and Hannah Hackley each made a basket to make it 8-2. After being held scoreless for over five minutes, Christopher Newport's Sam Porter drained a pair of free throws to make it 8-4. The Purple & White answered when Hackley delivered a beautiful pass to Emma McCarthy, who finished with a bucket underneath to set the score at 10-4.
Amherst later extended its lead to 13-6, before a pair of Madeline Eck free throws with 11 seconds remaining in the quarter gave the Purple & White a 15-8 cushion at intermission. McCarthy finished the quarter with a team-best four points, while Meredith Doswell and Hackley pulled in four rebounds each.
In the second stanza, Amherst pushed its lead to 20-10 following a trey by Doswell and a layup by Doswell before the Captains responded with a triple by Makenzie Fancher to make it 20-13. A layup and ensuing foul shot by Ali Doswell at the 5:06 mark gave the Purple & White a 25-13 advantage, and a stellar defensive effort kept Christopher Newport's offense at bay with just five points halfway through the second frame. With less than 40 seconds to play in the first half, Hackley swished a trey to set the score at 34-16. She then hit the second of two free throws with three ticks on the clock to give the Purple & White a 35-16 lead at intermission.
Doswell was 5-of-8 from the floor in the first half and led all players with 12 points. Doswell and Hackley added six points and six boards each. Hackley also dished out four assists in the first 20 minutes. The Captains were led by Porter's four points, while Makeda Wright pulled in four rebounds.
Christopher Newport came out firing in the third quarter as Dufrene cashed in a trey, while Porter swished a pair from the charity stripe to make it 37-21 with 8:34 on the clock. Amherst responded scoring four of the next five points as an Ali Doswell bucket in the paint gave the Purple & White a 41-22 lead. McCarthy then hit the front end of two foul shots to extend the lead to 20 points with 5:55 left in the third period.
The lead stayed at 20 points until the Captains' Devon Byrd put back an offensive rebound to make it 46-28 with 3:10 left in the third quarter. A bucket by Jackie Nagle and a three-point play by Meghan Sullivan with 1:40 left in the session gave Amherst a 51-28 lead. A triple by Zhara Tannor cut the Christopher Newport deficit back to 20 points, and a pair of makes at the foul line by Porter closed the gap to 18 points as the quarter ended with Amherst ahead 53-35.
In the fourth frame, Eck converted an and-one, and Maeve McNamara struck from long distance to help the Purple & White run its lead to 59-37. A fast-break layup by Fancher at the 2:47 mark pulled the Captains back to within 20 (63-43), and four makes from the foul line by Porter narrowed their deficit to 63-47. A basket by Anitra Thomas then set the score to 63-49, but Christopher Newport could get no closer as Amherst held on for the convincing win.