Friday night saw an end to the season for women’s basketball (20-8), as Amherst cut short the team’s NCAA run with a 71-66 victory at Amherst on Friday. The Ephs, however, went out in style, falling to the national No. 1 Jeffs in a close matchup that was the polar opposite of the two teams’ regular season games earlier this year, both of which Amherst won by more than 20 points.
The women, who were underdogs in the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid in spite of a disappointing NESCAC tournament quarterfinal loss to Bates, took down Mt. St. Mary and DeSales in the first two rounds of play to meet the Jeffs in the third round last weekend.
The game against Amherst on Friday started out slowly: After the first six minutes of play had passed, the teams were tied at just 8-8. The two teams traded baskets until the final five minutes of the first half, when it seemed that the Ephs could take control of the game. Jennie Harding ’13 nailed a three-pointer that was quickly followed by a lay-up from Taylor Shea ’11 to put the women up 22-18. A number of Williams buckets, capped off by a three-pointer from Grace Rehnquist ’13, put the Ephs up 37-25 at the break. Williams clearly outpaced Amherst offensively in the first half, as the women shot 45.5 percent from the field while holding the Jeffs to 41.7 percent shooting.
Just out of the locker room, another three points brought the women’s lead to 15, as they pulled ahead 40-25 for what would be their largest lead of the game. It seemed that Williams would fittingly be the first team to topple Amherst, who has gone an undefeated 30-0 on the season, but the Jeffs rallied on their home floor, holding the Ephs in check while pouring in points to tie the game at 50-50 at the 9:47 minute mark. Williams managed to stay close until the final minute, when, despite Rehnquist sinking another three-pointer in the final seconds to make the score 69-66 to keep the game close, Amherst’s Shannon Finucane pulled through for her team at the free throw line for the 71-66 win.
While the Ephs just edged out the Jeffs on shooting for the game – Williams made 42.6 percent of its attempts, while Amherst made 42.1 percent – the home team’s second half free throw percentage was really what tipped the scales. The Jeffs went 12 for 13 on free throws, a 92.3 percent rate.
In the loss, Shea led the offense with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Jill Greenberg ’12, Harding and Rehnquist added 16, 10 and 11 points respectively, and Chessie Jackson ’11 pulled down 14 rebounds to lead the team.
The women drastically improved this season after finishing the previous year with an 8-17 record overall on the season. The Ephs’ Sweet 16 appearance this year was their first since 2006.
“Overall all three NCAA games were the best we played all season,” Head Coach Pat Manning said. “The team really came together [since November] … and that’s what I’m most proud of. They peaked at the right time, and I just want to give them so much credit for that tremendous growth.”