Contact: Ben Badua
MEDFORD, Mass. - The 11th-ranked Amherst women's basketball team fell short in its quest to advance to a sixth-consecutive Final Four after dropping a heart-breaking, 74-71, overtime decision to Ithaca College in an NCAA sectional semifinal game at Tufts University's Cousens Gymnasium.
Bomber junior Samantha Klie '15 made a layup with 20 seconds left in the extra session before adding a pair of free throws with 1.3 ticks on the clock to lift Ithaca (26-4) to its first-ever national quarterfinal.
Matching a career-high with 12 rebounds, Marley Giddins '16 connected on 10 of her 17 field goal attempts to finish one point shy of also tying a personal scoring record with 22. Shooting 6-of-10 from the floor, Meredith Doswell '17 added 14 points, while Ali Doswell '17 chipped in with 13 points and a career-best nine assists. Jaimie Renner '17 was the only other Jeff to score in double digits with 10.
Controlling play in the early going, Amherst built a 25-13 lead over the game's first 8:41. Hannah Peterson '17 opened the contest with a triple on the Jeffs' first possession, while Giddins and Meredith Doswell combined to score 13 of the Purple & White's points during that span.
Battling back, Ithaca answered with a 12-6 spurt over the next five-plus minutes. Geena Brady '15 got things going with a jumper at 11:11 before Kathryn Campbell '14 converted a bucket after a Peterson trey. The Bombers went right back to Brady for another basket at 8:36 before Renner found the range from long distance. Mary Kate Tierney '14 responded by rattling off four-straight points to cap off a rally that saw Ithaca trim its deficit to just 31-25 with 6:11 remaining in the half.
Trailing by nine at the intermission, the Bombers started the second stanza on an 8-0 spurt. Campbell kick-started the run with a layup and a pair of free throws before a Jenn Escobido '14 bucket and Brady jumper pulled Ithaca within one at 41-40. Peterson knocked down a three on the Jeffs' next possession to momentarily stem the tide, but five-straight points, bookended by an Ally Mnich '15 triple gave the Bombers their first lead of the game (45-44) with 14:28 remaining in regulation.
After a Meredith Doswell layup put Amherst right back on top, Ithaca reeled off the game's next six points to take a 51-46 edge midway through the period. Clawing its way back, the Jeffs chipped away at the lead before going ahead by one after a Giddins layup at 6:46. Trailing 60-58 with just under four minutes left in regulation, Ali Doswell hit consecutive treys to suddenly put the Purple & White up four at the 2:25 mark. Escobido tied it with a jumper the next time down the floor before a Brady basket with just 36 seconds left forced overtime.
Helping to carry the momentum into the extra session, Escobido got into the lane for a pair of layups that put Ithaca up 68-64. Down three with just over a minute to play, Meredith Doswell ducked into the lane for two of her own. With both teams coming up empty the next couple of possessions, Amherst had a chance to take the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining. Going to Giddins, the Jeffs did just that, with the sophomore able to convert in the paint to give Amherst a slim 71-70 margin.
Answering on the other end, Klie got loose inside, helping the Bombers recapture the advantage. Needing a defensive stop, Ithaca corralled an Ali Doswell miss, forcing the Jeffs to foul Klie to ice the game.
Tierney posted a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Connecting on 6-of-8 from the field, Brady finished with 13 points and seven boards, while Campbell scored 18. Escobido was the only other player for the Bombers in double figures with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
As a team, Ithaca shot 44.1 percent from the floor, while holding the Jeffs to a 38.9 percent showing from the field. Holding a decisive 51-37 rebounding edge, the Bombers outscored Amherst 24-13 in second chance points.
Closing out the year with a 26-4 record, this marks the first time the Jeffs failed to advance past the round of 16 since the 2007-08 campaign. Despite posting its lowest win total under seven-year head coach G.P. Gromacki, the future remains bright for a young Amherst team that will not lose any players to graduation. With seven underclassmen (including four first-years) seeing significant minutes, the Jeffs should have a full complement of players back in the mix next season alongside two-time All-NESCAC honoree Megan Robertson '15, who missed the team's final 15 games due to injury.