At the Goombay Shootout in Nassau, Bahamas, the squad snapped a two-game skid at the hands of the United States Coast Guard Academy and Clark University with a pair of wins over Colby-Sawyer College. For Amherst, sophomore Shannon Russell turned heads and earned tournament MVP honors, leading the Jeffs with 14 points in a 38-32 victory on Jan. 3, and following up with another 15 points in a second faceoff against the Chargers on Jan. 6. Sarah Bergman ’04 dominated on the boards, snagging a team-high 19 rebounds on the two-game stand.
“The team trip to the Bahamas was a great bonding experience for us,” commented Bergman. “It broke up the monotony of Interterm and allowed us to experience a different style of play with the Bahamanian teams,” she added.
Amherst returned to the familiar confines of LeFrak Gymnasium on Jan. 9 to host nearby Smith College in a 57-47 win, the Jeffs’ third straight. Powered by double-doubles from Bergman and Walker and a 10 point performance from quad-captain Hallison Putnam ’02, the Jeffs took the lead for good in the closing minutes of the first half.
The next day, at Babson College, Russell paced the Jeffs with 27 points and Walker stepped to the foul line for four vital points in the closing seconds of the game as the Jeffs took a 64-59 win over the Beavers. Against Babson, Bergman and Walker each notched another double-double to bring the Jeff record to 8-3.
Things started to go downhill for Amherst when they faced off against visiting Williams College on Jan. 12. With Bergman and Walker crippled by foul trouble early in the game, the Jeff post never fully recovered from the loss of the 6’2″ players during the first half.
The Jeffs dropped a non-conference matchup to the Ephs, 68-46, to begin what would become a six-game losing streak. A layup by LaShauna Barboza ’04-who shared a team-high nine points with Russell-dropped the Williams lead to one point with six minutes left in the first half, but the Eph offense powered back with a 9-2 run to take a 36-26 lead at halftime. Williams had the momentum in the second half and led by as many as 25 points.
The Amherst squad traveled to Wesleyan University and to a 51-40 loss on Jan. 15. The game witnessed a wild 51 turnovers and the school-record setting 10-3 Cardinals were able to withstand a combined 22 points from Walker and Marissa McGuire ’04.
Three days later, the Jeffs headed to Williamstown for a conference faceoff against the Ephs, the first of four straight NESCAC games. Again, Amherst hit foul trouble, marking 22 whistles on the night. Williams’ sparse 14 fouls gave them the advantage, despite the obviously superior Jeff rebounding skills, headed up by Bergman’s 14 grabs and a respective 14 and 13 points from Russell and Putnam. Midway through the second half, Amherst went on an 11-0 run, ending with a Barboza jumper that tied the score at 40-40 with 8:05 left in regulation. But, a pair of threes from Eph Abi Jackson and two jumpers from Kerri McMahon late in the game gave Williams the lead for good. The Ephs took the game 62-54, dropping Amherst to 8-6 overall and 0-1 in the NESCAC.
The Jeffs took a break from travel to host Middlebury College on Jan. 19. The Panther triumvirate of Megan McCosker, Kristin Hanley and Alexis Batten composed the vast majority of the Middlebury offense. The Panthers rolled past Amherst to a 73-60 final score. In the loss, Bergman notched 16 points and Putnam and Russell added 12 each, helped by Barboza’s five assists.
The Amherst squad finished out Interterm with a tilt at Bates College on Friday night and a showdown at Tufts University on Saturday. The Jeffs took an early lead against the Bobcats, but fell victim to a 23-11 Bates run in the last 10 minutes of the first half for a 29-27 halftime deficit. Amherst would never see the lead again, due to a five-point Bobcat run to open the second half and a 13-2 run that ended eight minutes into the frame. Russell sparked the Amherst offense, leading all scorers with 22 points, while Walker notched nine rebounds and Putnam dished out a game-high five assists in the 71-58 fall.
At Tufts, the Jeffs took a 32-28 lead at the halftime mark of what was a close game. Bergman made her mark on the first half of action, taking 16 points and seven rebounds in the first frame. The second half of play began much like the first. The score was tied six times until an 11-0 Jumbo run turned the tide in the game’s final minutes and gave the host Jumbos the game, 71-62. Bergman led the Jeff offense with 23 points. With the loss, the Amherst squad fell to 8-9 overall, with a 0-4 mark in conference play.
Tomorrow, the squad will travel to New England College for a 7:30 matchup, before heading south to Trinity College on Saturday. The Trinity game will begin a string of five all-important conference games that will define the Jeff’s postseason hopes. “We’re hoping to find our rhythm and play up to our potential during the remainder of the season,” said Bergman. “This should allow us to advance far and have a fun time on the court too.”