AMHERST, Mass. -- Sophomore Amherst
College forward Cara Coscarelli (West Hartford, CT) connected
on four huge free-throws in the closing minutes as the host Jeffs
hung on for a hard-fought 55-48 win over visiting Wesleyan University
in women's basketball action on Tuesday, capturing their first
outright Little III title since the 1988-89 season.
In a game dominated by defenses, neither team was able to put much together in the first half, combining to shoot only 18/56 (32.1 percent) in the opening 20 minutes. Wesleyan forward Kamica Lewis (Jamaica Hills, NY) accounted for 10 of the Cardinals' 22 first-half points, six of those 10 coming on put-backs, but the visitors trailed by three at the break thanks to 13 points from the Amherst duo of senior Co-captain Naomi Sullivan (Hudson, MA) and rookie Sally Hamill (Scituate, MA).
The second half saw much of the same back-and-forth action, before a mini Amherst run, fueled by two Sullivan jumpers, put the hosts up 42-32 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
But Lewis led the Cardinals back almost singlehandedly, scoring on three of the visitors' next five possessions. Combined with a pair of three-pointers from senior Wesleyan Co-captain Julie Bennett (Huntington Station, NY), the Cardinals closed to within three, cutting the Amherst lead to 49-46 inside the three-minute mark.
The Jeffs, however, found help from an unlikely hero. Coscarelli, who was only in the game because rookie forward Sarah Walker (West Hartford, CT) had fouled out two minutes earlier, knocked down a pair of free throws, and after a Wesleyan basket, converted two more to give the Jeffs a 53-48 lead. After a missed Wesleyan jumper, a controversial foul call put Hamill on the line for two more free throws, and she converted both to account for the 55-48 final. The Jeffs, who connected on only two of seven free-throw attempts in the first half, were 13-15 from the chartiy stripe in the final period, including 6-7 down the stretch.
Lewis, who finished eight of 11 from the field, led all scorers with 18 points, adding nine rebounds and four steals, while Bennett finished with nine points, including a perfect 2-2 mark from downtown. Solid defense from Amherst junior Charlotte Taylor (Harvard, MA) helped to hold Wesleyan senior Lynn St. Martin (Westport, MA), the Cardinals' leading scorer, to only six points on 1-9 shooting.
For the Jeffs, Sullivan led the way with her third straight double-double, her fourth of the season, adding 10 rebounds and a career-best six steals to her 17-point performance. Hamill and Taylor finished with 11 points each, and Walker, with nine rebounds before fouling out, became only the second Amherst player ever to eclipse the 200-rebound plateau in a single season, upping her season total to 205.
The win finishes a season sweep of the Cardinals for the Jeffs, who improve to 14-6 with their 10th win in 12 games since the New Year. Combined with their 53-50 win over arch-rival Williams College on January 15, and Wesleyan's 80-61 win at Williams on January 28, the Jeffs locked up their first outright Little III title since the 1988-89 season, denying Williams a share of their tenth straight mini-conference championship.
The Jeffs next begin a critical three-game road trip, starting with two weekend games in Maine at Bowdoin and Colby Colleges, while the Cardinals, who fall to 8-13 with the loss, host Hamilton College on Saturday.
|Wesleyan University (8-13, 1-6)||
|Amherst College (14-6, 4-2)||
Wesleyan (48) Lewis 8-11 2-4 18, Bennett 3-7 1-3 9, St. Martin 1-9 4-4 6, Bernius 2-3 1-2 5, Ebbeson 2-6 0-0 4, Massey 0-2 2-2 2, Bowman 0-5 2-2 2, Miller 0-0 2-2 2, Smith 0-1 0-0 0; TOTALS 16-44 14-19 48
Amherst (55) Sullivan 6-11 5-9 17, Taylor 5-9 0-0 11, Hamill 3-10 2-2 11, Coscarelli 1-6 4-4 6, Walker 1-6 2-4 4, Feldman 1-6 2-2 4, Bozorg 1-3 0-1 2, Putnam 0-3 0-0 0; TOTALS 18-54 15-22 55
3-point goals -- Wesleyan 2-9 (Bennett 2-2, St. Martin 0-4, Bowman 0-2, Smith 0-1), Amherst 4-16 (Hamill 3-7, Taylor 1-4, Putnam 0-3, Feldman 0-2). Fouled out -- W Bernius, A Walker. Rebounds -- Wesleyan 36 (Lewis 9), Amherst 35 (Sullivan 10). Assists -- Wesleyan 13 (St. Martin 6), Amherst 11 (Bozorg 3). Total fouls -- Wesleyan 18, Amherst 14. Technicals -- NONE. Attendance -- 134.
Full game boxscore