BRUNSWICK, Maine – Senior co-captain Jac Knapp netted a game-high 25 points and scored her 1,000th career point as the third-seeded Jumbos earned an exciting 75-69 NESCAC Championship victory over the No. 1 seeded Bowdoin Polar Bears on Sunday afternoon in Morrell Gymnasium. This was Tufts' third NESCAC Championship in program history, and their first since the 2014-15 season.
|Knapp netted 25 points and joined the 1,000 point club on Sunday|
With the victory, the No. 6 nationally ranked Jumbos are now 25-2 overall and receive the NESCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Jumbos got revenge on the Polar Bears after they fell 82-63 in the regular season. Tufts is now 2-2 in NESCAC Championship games against Bowdoin with the other win coming in the 2014-15 season. The Jumbos will now wait until Monday afternoon at 2:30 to see who they will play in the first round of the NCAA's.
The top-ranked Polar Bears were undefeated heading into Sunday, falling to 26-1 and will receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced Monday.
The entire game was close and it all came down to the fourth quarter, where the Jumbos started with a 52-51 lead. Knapp and junior Erica DeCandido combined to score the first eight points of the fourth in just over a minute to push the Jumbo lead to nine. Knapp connected on an and-one layup and a three-pointer from DeCandido during that stretch. Over the next three minutes the veteran Polar Bears settled down and held the Jumbos scoreless while scoring six points off four free throws from their season-leading scorer Abby Kelly, and a layup from junior Maddie Hasson to get within three. The Jumbos then scored six straight points to take a 66-60 lead with just over four minutes to go in the game. Bowdoin junior Samantha Roy and Choate kept the Polar Bears in it as they each recorded threes within a minute of each other. A Choate layup got the Polar Bears to within two, 67-65, with 2:45 remaining. But the Jumbos remained calm and as they were fouled consistently made their free throws. All of Tufts' last eight points came from the charity stripe as the Polar Bears tried to fight to get back into it.
From the opening tip, the Jumbos and Polar Bears looked to push the ball up the floor and get to the basket. Bowdoin looked to their veteran leaders early and often as they opened the contest on a 6-2 run led by points from Choate, Hasson and Roy. Tufts sophomore Emily Briggs got the brown and blue on the board with a layup during that stretch. Over the next three minutes, the Jumbos scored eight of the next 11 points. DeCandido netted four points while Knapp and Briggs also connected on contested layups to put Tufts up by one. Then the brown and blue extended their lead to four by netting seven points while holding Bowdoin to four free throws over a two-minute span. Harrington hit a big three-pointer to help spark the Jumbo offense during that stretch. Hasson would then score the Polar Bears' final six points of the frame as she stayed aggressive and attacked the hoop, but a buzzer-beating shot by Tufts freshman Janette Wadolowski gave the Jumbos a 23-19 edge after one. Both teams shot 50 percent from the floor in the first.
Both defenses settled down in the second as there was only a combined seven points scored in the first four minutes. Jumbo freshman Sofia Rosa had the lone Jumbo points during that stretch with a jumper, while Kelly and Roy combined for the Polar Bear five. Bowdoin retook the lead off a Hasson layup, but Rosa hit a layup and freshman Molly Ryan knocked down a three-pointer to regain the advantage for the Jumbos. Ryan then went on to hit another three to answer one from Kelly with under three minutes left in the frame. Roy connected on the game's next four points, but Ryan hit her third three of the frame at the buzzer to give Tufts a 37-33 lead heading into the half.
Out of the locker room, Hasson and DeCandido combined to score the first eight points of the second half as each netted four points over the first three minutes of action. Hasson converted a pair of free throws and a layup while DeCandido got a jumper and a layup to go. Things got a bit quiet over the next three minutes as there were only points from Knapp, Kelly and Hasson. Knapp got on a roll towards the end of the third quarter and accounted for four of the Jumbos' five points towards the end of the third. Over the final two minutes of the frame, Bowdoin freshman Annie Boasberg got on the board with a pair of threes as the Polar Bears ended the quarter on an 8-4 run cutting the Jumbo lead to just one, 52-51, heading inot the final frame.
The fourth quarter was a high scoring one as the Jumbos outscored the Polar Bears 23-18 to propel them to a 75-69 victory. Knapp took over in the fourth as she scored 15 points and was 8-9 from the free throw line. Choate had a team-high seven points in the final frame and connected on three shots.
For the game, Tufts shot 27-58 and Bowdoin was 21-44 from the field. The Polar Bears pulled down 31 rebounds and the Jumbos collected 25. Tufts' defense was very opportunistic as they forced 21 Polar Bear turnovers. The Jumbos dished out 10 assists to Bowdoin's eight. Each team shot well from the foul line as the Polar Bears were 20-21 and Tufts was 16-19. There were four ties and five lead changes in the game.
Knapp was 7-17 from the floor and 10-11 from the foul line in the game. DeCandido also scored in double-figures with 17 and dished out a team-high five assists. Ryan connected on three big three-pointers and had a steal. Rosa and Harrington combined for 14 points. Tufts had eight players score in the game.
Hasson had a team-high 20 points for the Polar Bears and was an efficient 10-10 from the foul line. Kelly was second on the team with 16 points and pulled down five rebounds. Roy and Choate were also in double-figures with 12 and 11 points respectively. Six Bowdoin players scored in the contest.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello