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Unbeaten Amherst repeats with 65-45 win

  • Above, Amherst College’s Maeve McNamara drives the ball past Montclair’s Janae Mayfield Friday during the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament Sweet 16 at Amherst’s LeFrak Gymnasium. Montclair’s Taylor Harmon, left, and Amherst’s Emma McCarthy look on, at back. Below, Amherst Final Four Most Outstanding Player and All-Tournament team selection McCarthy drives to the hoop against pressure from Montclair’s Alex McKinnon in the Sweet 16. gazette file photos/Sarah Crosby

  • Amherst Final Four Most Outstanding Player and All-Tournament team selection Emma McCarthy drives to the hoop against pressure from Montclair’s Alex McKinnon in the Sweet 16. GAZETTE file photo/sarah crosby



For the Recorder
Sunday, March 18, 2018

ROCHESTER, Minn. — After a dominant 65-45 win over Bowdoin Polar Bears, the Amherst College women’s basketball team won its second straight NCAA Division III National Championship Saturday.

The Mammoths (33-0) have won 66 straight games dating back to the 2016 Final Four and completed back-to-back undefeated seasons. The win streak is the second longest in NCAA women’s Division III basketball history.

This was also the second straight year of an All-NESCAC championship after Amherst defeated Tufts last year.

“It’s an incredible feeling. I’m so proud of our team and the way they handled themselves all weekend,” said Amherst coach and South Deerfield native son G.P. Gromacki. “It’s a special group that is the most resilient group I’ve ever coached.”

A game that pitted the No. 1 and No. 5 scoring defenses against each other started similarly to the game the teams played Jan. 27, which ended in a 49-45 Amherst victory.

Bowdoin got on the scoreboard first with a pair of layups from Cordelia Stewart and held a 4-0 lead at the first media timeout.

Amherst’s first basket came at the 4:25 mark in the first quarter off an Emma McCarthy layup. McCarthy scored all eight of the Mammoths’ points in the first to tie the game after one quarter.

The offenses picked up in the second, with Amherst building a lead as big as seven, 20-13.

After a timeout, the Polar Bears (29-3) closed the gap and trailed 26-23 at halftime.

Bowdoin tied the game up early in the third at 26, as the Amherst offense stagnated. The Polar Bears took the lead off a Kate Kerrigan floater with just over seven minutes left in the quarter.

Just as she had in the first half, McCarthy scored the first points for the Mammoths in the third quarter.

At the media timeout in the third, Bowdoin held a slim 32-30 lead, but McCarthy struck again and tied the game with just under four minutes left in the quarter. Amherst built off of her clutch play and took a six-point lead into the final quarter.

Baskets by Hannah Fox and McCarthy gave the Mammoths their first double-digit lead with under a minute gone in the fourth.

The fourth quarter was all Amherst. The Mammoths outscored the Polar Bears 23-9 and led by as many as 23.

As they have for the past several years, the Mammoths used defense to win. They held Bowdoin, the No. 5 scoring offense in the country, 35 points below its season average. The Polar Bears shot just 27.3 percent from the field.

“We knew were up for a pretty tough fight and battle, but we clamped down and had great help defense,” Gromacki said, “made it tough to get the ball in, contested shots. They turned it up a notch at the right time.”

McCarthy finished as the leading scorer for the Mammoths with 25 points and also had a double-double with 12 rebounds. She was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player and made the All-Tournament Team.

“Emma did a great job. This game really encompassed what she’s done for us the whole season,” Fox said.

Fox also finished in double figures against Bowdoin with 12 points and was also named to the All-Tournament Team.

McCarthy stressed defense was the biggest thing for the team, no matter the opponent.

“Defense is our game plan going into every game. All five of us out on the court need to be in sync for us to be successful, and I think our game plan was to come out and be strong and be in their faces,” McCarthy said.