Late Rally By Women's Hoops Falls Short in Naismith Classic Championship Game|
January 3, 2001
SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts - Despite separate 12-0 and 7-0 runs in the second half of Wednesday night's Holiday Inn Naismith Classic championship game, the Amherst College women's basketball team was unable to overcome a 12-point halftime deficit to host Springfield College, dropping a 53-50 nailbiter in a thrilling contest between two of New England's top teams.
|Caitlin Farrell '04 set a new|
school record with five blocks,
helping the Jeffs attempt to
rally from a 12-point halftime deficit.
The Jeffs, who advanced to the championship game with an undermanned 53-50 win over the Red Hawks of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on Tuesday afternoon, traded baskets with the host Pride-79-48 victors over Manhattanville College in the other first-round game-before taking a 19-16 lead at the 8:11-mark of the first half on a jumper by senior Co-captain Charlotte Taylor (Harvard, MA). From there, the Pride turned the ball over to All-American forward Becky Kanupka (Rocky Hill, CT), playing only her second game since returning from a shoulder injury. Kanupka scored seven straight points for Springfield to ignite a 22-7 run, as the Pride ended the half by holding Amherst to only two field goals over the final eight minutes. With the run, Springfield took a 38-26 lead into the locker room, the Jeffs' largest halftime deficit of the season, shooting a solid 14-31 (45.2 percent) from the field.
Both teams came out of halftime cold from the field, with only one bucket-a lay-in from Amherst first-year forward Sarah Bergman (Shaftsbury, VT)-during the first 4:02 of the period. A lay-up from Springfield junior Kristy Murray (Toms River, NJ) gave the Pride their largest lead of the game, a 41-28 advantage at the 15:58-mark, before Amherst's defense took over. Despite having both starting forwards-Bergman and sophomore Sarah Walker (W. Hartford, CT)-in serious foul trouble, the Jeffs clamped down, beginning to gain momentum on offense. Bergman scored four straight points, first-year Ana Yarawamai (Waimea, HI) nailed a jumper, fellow rookie Shannon Russell (Shrewsbury, MA) drained a three-pointer, Taylor added a jumper and first-year Marissa McGuire (Minneapolis, MN) knocked down a free throw to cap a 12-0 run that brought the Jeffs to within one at the 10:19 mark.
But Kanupka, who would be named the Tournament MVP, responded. On Springfield's ensuing possession, the junior converted a three-point play, and she added a lay-up on the Pride's next trip to keep the Jeffs from drawing even. The bucket, however, would be Springfield's last field goal of the game, as Amherst's stingy defense held Springfield to an 0-14 performance from the field during the final 9:31 of the half.
The Jeffs did not fare much better, and with Bergman and Walker both fouling out midway through the half, the hosts appeared to be pulling away, building a 51-43 lead with 5:17 to play. The Jeffs, however, had one more run in them. Behind rookie Caitlin Farrell (Lafayette, CA), who set a new school record with five blocked shots on the evening, the visitors rallied. Farrell connected on a lay-in at the 5:02-mark to close the Jeffs to within six, and Springfield would come away scoreless on their next four possessions before Russell drained a three-pointer from deep in the right corner at the 3:19 mark to cut the Pride's lead in half.
Taylor added her third bucket of the evening on a put-back at the 2:43 mark to close the Jeffs to within one, but Amherst could not get over the hump, missing their next five shot attempts from the field. The defense, however, kept the Jeffs in the game to the very end, as Springfield managed only two points over the final 5:17, but those two points came in the form of a pair of clutch free-throws from Murray with 2.6 seconds left, icing the 53-50 victory-and tournament title-for the host Pride.
For the game, Bergman finished with her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out, and Russell posted a team-high 14 points, including four three-pointers. Both were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Springfield's Kelly Thompson (Albany, NY), tournament MVP Kanupka-who finished with a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds-and one player each from Manhattanville and RPI. Farrell, along with her school-record five blocks, finished with a solid seven-point, seven-rebound performance in only 21 minutes, holding Springfield center Janna Dietz (Fogelsville, PA) to only one point, five rebounds and three turnovers. Amherst's second half defense held the Pride to a 3-28 shooting performance from the field (10.7 percent) after halftime, but Springfield knocked down nine of their 12 free throws after halftime, while Amherst finished only 6-12 from the charity stripe on the evening, entering the game shooting only 48.1 percent from the line.
The loss, which snaps Amherst's three-game win streak, drops the Jeffs to 7-2, still matching their best-ever start (1988-89). The squad returns to action on Saturday afternoon at Framingham State College, a 1:00 p.m. start. Springfield, which won their own tournament for the second straight time and for the third time in the six years of the invitational, improves to 7-2, and are next in action on Saturday as well, when they host Amherst's NESCAC rival, Middlebury College, in a men's and women's doubleheader.