GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The No. 1/1 Amherst College women's basketball team capped its magical 2016-17 season with the program's second-ever NCAA Division III national championship following a 52-29 win over NESCAC rival No. 4/4 Tufts University Saturday evening at Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
With the win, Amherst completes its historic season 33-0 overall and claims the program's second-ever national championship (2011). This is Amherst's first-ever undefeated season and second national crown under 10th-year head coach G.P. Gromacki. Tufts concludes its superb season as the national runner-up with an overall record of 30-3 having lost to the Purple & White three times in 2016-17.
After nearly four minutes of scoreless basketball to open the first quarter, Ali Doswell '17 opened the scoring for Amherst with a layup at the 6:03 mark to give the Purple & White a 2-0 lead. Following a pair of missed free throws by Tufts, Meredith Doswell '17 swished a three-pointer at the 4:46 mark to give Amherst a 5-0 advantage. The Jumbos scored their first bucket at the 2:21 mark on a nice drive by Erica DeCandido, but the Purple & White answered with a jumper by Ali Doswell less than 30 seconds later to set the score at 7-2. From there, Amherst was able to hold its five-point advantage for the duration of the quarter. Emma McCarthy '19 led all players with three boards in the first 10 minutes, while the Purple & White defense limited Tufts to 10% shooting from the field.
Amherst found rhythm early in the second stanza as Hackley powered in a layup at the 8:40 mark, and then sank a long two point jumper on Amherst's following possession following a steal by Jackie Nagle '18 to make it 11-2. Jaimie Renner '17 then found Nagle for a bucket underneath with 7:27 on the clock to give the Purple & White a 13-2 advantage. Amherst then extended its lead to 18-2 following a layup and a strike from beyond-the-arc by Ali Doswell. Michela North hit a turn-around jumper at the 2:25 mark to end the scoreless drought for Tufts to make it 18-4, but the Purple &White responded when Ali Doswell downed a jumper to make it 20-4. North then added another bucket to make it 20-6 at the end of the half.
Ali Doswell finished with 11 first half points, while Meredith Doswell pulled in five rebounds. Renner dished out three assists as the Purple & White shot 42.9% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range in the first 20 minutes. Tufts was limited to just 15.8% efficiency from the floor.
In the third quarter, Tufts was sparked by a steal by Josie Lee that led to a trey by Melissa Baptista at the 8:52 mark. A mid-range jumper by Jacqueline Knapp on the Jumbos' next possession, and a North jumper pulled Tufts to within seven at 20-13 with 7:21 to play in the frame. A pair of free throws by McCarthy halted the Jumbos' early run, but North answered with a layup to make it 22-15. Two more McCarthy foul shots and a fast-break basket by McCarthy pushed Amherst's lead back to double digits at 26-15 with under five minutes to play in the period. With just under two minutes to play, North delivered a pair from the charity stripe to pull Tufts to within 10 at 29-19 before a trey from Meredith Doswell swelled the Purple & White's lead to 32-19. Two foul shots by Baptista with six seconds left set the score at 32-21 after three quarters.
At the start of the fourth quarter, McCarthy drilled two more free throws, Madeline Eck '20 pulled in a tremendous defensive board and scored a layup on the ensuing possession, and Meredith Doswell notched a steal and converted a fast-break bucket to make it 38-21 with 5:59 to play in the contest. A DeCandido jumper made it 38-23, but Ali Doswell answered with a jumper of her own to keep the lead at 17 points (40-23). Two more free throws by McCarthy, and six straight from the stripe by Ali Doswell increased the Purple & White cushion to 48-23 with 3:39 on the clock. After Eck hit one of two from the line, North put in a bucket to make it 49-25. Another Eck free throw gave the Purple & White a 25-point advantage. Amherst continued to excel from the free throw line as Meredith Doswell swished a pair to make it 52-25 as the Purple & White pulled away to their 52-29 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Amherst was led by Ali Doswell who scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while pulling in five rebounds and registering four steals. For her efforts, she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four.
- McCarthy finished with 11 points and five boards, while Meredith Doswell added 10 points and a team-best nine rebounds. She was also named to the all-tournament team.
- Hackley added four points and seven rebounds, while Eck finished with four points in the winning effort.
- Tufts was led by a 14-point, 10-rebound effort from North, while Baptista followed with five points. Lauren Dillon added five boards and four assists in the losing effort.
- Amherst shot 40.5% from the field, 42.9% from three-point range and 79.2% from the free throw line. The Purple & White limited Tufts to just 24.4% shooting from the floor, 5.9% efficiency from three-point range, and 75% shooting from the free throw line.
- Amherst held Tufts to just two points in the first quarter – the third time this season that the Purple & White accomplished that feat during the season, and the second time in the NCAA tournament.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Prior to Saturday's NCAA championship contest, Amherst and Tufts met twice this season with the Purple & White notching a 36-35 victory in the regular season matchup on Feb. 4 in Medford, Mass. Amherst then earned a 41-37 win in the NESCAC Championship title game to earn its second straight conference crown and the program's seventh overall.
- Amherst and the Jumbos have met once before in NCAA Tournament action as the Purple & White edged Tufts, 47-42 in NCAA Third Round action in 2013.
- Saturday marked Amherst's second NCAA Championship title game appearance. The last came in 2011 with the Purple & White clinching the program's first-ever national championship, 64-55 over Washington University –St. Louis.
- The 2016-17 NCAA championship was the first time in NCAA Division III men's and women's basketball history that two teams from the same conference competed for the national title. It also marked the first time that a team was held to as few as 29 points in a championship game on both the men's and women's side.
- Amherst seniors Ali Doswell, Meredith Doswell and Jaimie Renner conclude their phenomenal careers with a 114-10 overall record with a two league titles (2016, 2017) and a national championship (2017).