Career-Day from Russell Helps Jeffs to Record-Breaking 21st Win, Top Seed in NESCACs|
February 17, 2001
AMHERST, Mass. - First-year Amherst College guard Shannon Russell (Shrewsbury, MA) scored the first 10 points of the game as part of a game-opening 26-4 Amherst run, before finishing with a career-high 28 points as the host Jeffs knocked off visiting Colby College in Saturday afternoon's regular-season finale, locking up the number-one seed-and the first-round bye that goes along with it-in next week's first-ever NESCAC conference tournament.
|Shannon Russell '04 scored |
a career-high 28 points
to help the Jeffs lock up
a first-round bye in next
week's NESCAC tournament
Russell, who has gotten hot down the stretch for the Jeffs, came out of the gates on fire in Saturday's first-place showdown, hitting a pair of three-pointers, a jumper and a pair of free throws to put Amherst up 10-0 at the 14:50-mark. By the time Colby sophomore Sarah Walsh (Catonsville, MD) hit a free throw for Colby's first point at the 12:22-mark, the Jeffs already had a 14-1 lead, with the White Mules missing all of their first 10 field-goal attempts. Colby finally hit its first field goal of the game-a jumper from sophomore Carli Parisella (Bedford, MA) at the 11:16-mark-but the Jeffs kept pouring it on, eventually widening the lead to 26-4 after back-to-back buckets from Russell, including a rainbow three-pointer from the left wing.
Colby, which entered the game tied with the Jeffs for the top spot in the NESCAC, regrouped, and turned to Walsh, who dominated inside all afternoon. The sophomore single-handedly kept the White Mules in the game, picking up 11 points and 12 rebounds in the first half alone. Behind Walsh, the visitors would eventually go on an 11-4 run to cut the Amherst advantage to 33-19 with 29 seconds left in the first half, before two late Russell free throws extended the Amherst edge back to 16, 35-19, at the intermission. Russell turned in a five-for-six performance from the field in the first half, including a three-of-four effort from downtown, en route to 17 first-period points, the highest single-half total by an Amherst player all season.
For the second time in as many games, however, the Jeffs came out cold in the second half, and Colby fought back into the game, scoring seven straight points to open the period. Behind Russell, the Jeffs pushed the lead back out to 15 points, going ahead 47-32 on the first-year's fourth three-pointer of the day at the 12:26-mark, before another trey-ball from Russell just inside the 11-minute mark gave the hosts a 52-36 lead. The White Mules rallied, however, this time without Walsh, going on a 10-2 run that included three-pointers from senior Kim Condon (Presque Isle, ME) and sophomore Jasmine Ashe (Cumberland, ME), the league's top-rated sharpshooter.
The Ashe three-pointer cut the Amherst lead to eight, before senior Amherst co-captain Charlotte Taylor (Harvard, MA), on Senior Day, drained a wide-open three-pointer off an assist from fellow co-captain Hallison Putnam (Lexington, KY) to push the lead back to 11 with six minutes left. Walsh responded with five straight points, including a pair of put-backs, to close the Mules to within six, 57-51, with 5:08 to go, before Russell came through again, draining a 20-footer at the 4:37-mark to put the Jeffs back up by nine, 60-51.
From there, the visitors resorted to fouling, and the Jeffs were steady-though not stellar-from the charity stripe down the stretch. All of the Jeffs' last 11 points came from the foul line, including six from Putnam, who drilled all six of her attempts in the final 1:42, and the Mules misfired on seven of their eight three-point attempts in the final two minutes, accounting for the 71-59 final.
For the Jeffs, Russell finished with a career-high 28 points on nine-of-14 shooting, including a six-for-nine performance from downtown and a four-for-four effort from the foul line. The first-year was one three-pointer shy of the single-game school record, which she set in a 71-44 win over Coast Guard on December 11, finishing with the most points recorded by an Amherst player all season. Putnam and Taylor were the two other Jeffs in double figures, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while sophomore forward Sarah Walker (W. Hartford, CT) pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds to go along with her nine points and three blocked shots. Putnam finished with a career-high seven assists, and sophomore point guard Sara Bozorg (Amherst, MA) added a game-high eight helpers and six steals, as the Jeffs' sharp passing led to 21 assists on 23 field goals.
Colby, who falls to 18-6 (7-2 in the NESCAC) with the loss, was paced by Walsh, who had a terrific 21-point, 20-rebound afternoon, including 10 offensive boards. The rest of the Mules struggled from the field, however, with no other Colby player finishing with more than six points, including a four-for-24 team performance from downtown.
With the win, their ninth in a row and 14th in 15 games, the Jeffs (21-3, 8-1 NESCAC) set the all-time school record for wins in a season, breaking the previous record of 20 set by the 1987-88 squad, and capture the top seed in the first-ever NESCAC women's basketball tournament. As a result, Amherst is off until next Friday night, when they will host a doubleheader of tournament semifinals, with the winners of Tuesday's three quarterfinal match-ups coming to the Pioneer Valley for the Final Four. Colby, which falls into a three-way tie for second place with Bates and Bowdoin Colleges, will still host a home game on Tuesday, along with the Bobcats and Polar Bears, against teams to be determined in a seeding conference call on Sunday afternoon.
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