MEDFORD - In a NESCAC women's basketball final that was everything it was billed to be between the top two teams in New England, Amherst College came away with a 50-49 win at Tufts to earn their sixth conference title on Sunday afternoon.
A three-pointer by Amherst junior Meredith Doswell - their only three of the day on 15 attempts - gave the visitors a 48-47 lead with 1:55 on the fourth-quarter clock. Tufts turned it over at the other end and Amherst converted it into a lay-up by sophomore Hannah Hackey for a 50-47 advantage at the 1:31 mark. Senior Haley Zwecker had both the steal and the assist on the play.
After a Tufts time-out, junior Michela North brought the Jumbos within 50-49 on a lay-up with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. Amherst missed a lay-up at the other end and North grabbed the rebound. Tufts called time-out with 27 seconds remaining, but missed a three-pointer as the clock wound down under 10 seconds. However, sophomore Lauren Dillon controlled the rebound to get another time-out as Tufts would have one last chance with 3.9 seconds on the clock. Senior tri-captain Emma Roberson in-bounded the ball to North, but her lay-up rolled off the rim and Hackley chased down the loose-ball rebound to give Amherst the win.
The conference championship is the first for Amherst since 2013 when they won the last of four consecutive NESCAC crowns (2010-13). The Purple and White were also NESCAC champs in 2008. Amherst (26-1), the #2 seed in the conference tournament, receives the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA's which begin next Friday.
Amherst was led today by 22 points and nine rebounds from junior Ali Doswell. She and teammates Jamie Renner and Meredith Doswell all played the full 40 minutes as Amherst used just six players overall.
North was a monster for Tufts with a career-high 28 points and 13 rebounds. The Jumbos (23-3), who were the #1 seed in NESCSAC for the third straight season, will likely earn an at-large berth into the NCAA's tomorrow.
Tufts had a hot start today, running out to a 13-4 lead seven and a half minutes into the first quarter. Sophomore Melissa Baptista had five points including a three-pointer during the opening stretch and North added four. The Jumbos led 18-10 at the end of the first. North had eight points for Tufts while Amherst shot just 3 for 14 (.214) in the opening 10 minutes.
Amherst erased the 10-point deficit in the second quarter to take a 27-26 lead by halftime, out-scoring the Jumbos 17-8 in the period. Zwecker led Amherst with six points in the second quarter and the visitors out-rebounded the hosts 12-6.
Ali Doswell led Amherst with 10 points and five rebounds at the break. Zwecker had eight. The Purple and White shot just 8 for 26 in the half (.308), but made 11 of 12 free throws (.917). The Jumbos were led by North's 12 points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
Only once in the second half was it more than a one-possession game. The Jumbos took a 31-27 advantage on a Baptista lay-up at 8:26 of the third quarter. A lay-up by North at 5:05 and a jumper from Roberson at 4:40 gave Tufts a 38-35 lead. Ali Doswell's lay-up at 2:31 were the only points over the rest of the quarter and the Jumbos led 38-37 through three.
Into the fourth, Ali Doswell had four early points as Amherst went up 41-40. Four straight points by North later in the quarter gave Tufts the lead back at 45-43. Doswell, who went four for four form the line in the fourth, added two more freebies and the game was tied at 45-45 with 3:17 on the clock. North (nine fourth-quarter points) put Tufts up 47-45 before Amherst would get the better of the final two minutes to earn the title.
Meredith Doswell finished with nine points, nine rebounds and three assists for Amherst, while Zwecker had eight points and five rebounds. The Purple and White were 15 for 16 (.938) from the line. They finished 17 for 51 (.333) from the field, including 1 of 15 from distance (.067).
Tufts played the final 3:21 without Baptista, who fouled out. She had nine points with four rebounds and three assists in the game. Like their counterparts, Tufts made just one three-point attempt in the game.
The Jumbos, who had won back-to-back NESCAC titles in 2014 and 2015, saw their 18-game winning streak and 31-game home winning streak end with the loss.
Today was the third meeting between Tufts and Amherst in the conference final. Tufts won their first NESCAC crown in 2014 with a 62-46 win over Amherst. The Purple & White topped Tufts 59-53 in the 2008 final. The Jumbos had won the last four games in the series between the teams dating back to January 2013.
When the teams met during the regular season back on February 6, the Jumbos ended Amherst's 121-game home winning streak by an equally-close 52-51 final score.
Tufts was ranked fourth in the D3hoops.com poll and Amherst was #5 this week.