Ranked Number 11, Women's Basketball Keeps Rolling

The Mammoths have rolled through January, boasting a 16-2 record and No. 11 national ranking.

Ranked Number 11, Women's Basketball Keeps Rolling
Senior Dani Valdez '22 high-fives teammates at the beginning of a game earlier this season. She is currently second on the team with 11.0 points per game.

Due to multiple cancellations and postponements in December, the Mammoths returned to action against conference rival Williams on Jan. 8, more than a month removed from their previous match on Dec. 3. The Mammoths won the game in a decisive manner, defeating the Ephs 72-54. The Ephs’ defense was no match for a relentless Mammoth offense led by point guard Reeya Patel ’24, who dropped 16 points in the win. Not only did Patel lead the team in points, she also led the team with four steals. Other notable Mammoth performances came from Gabrielle Zaffiro ’22, who finished with 12 points, and Courtney Resch ’22, who hauled in 11 rebounds, tying her season high. With Amherst dominating on the boards, in the paint, and behind the arc, Williams was no match.

After another cancellation against out-of-conference opponent Lehman College, the Mammoths played a conference game on Jan. 14 at Lefrak Gymnasium against their opponents from the high north, the Bates Bobcats. Despite a valiant effort from Amherst — with Dani Valdez ’22 leading the Mammoths with 14 points, and Zaffiro adding 11 points and nine rebounds — the Mammoths lost a close one, 52-49, dropping their first game of the season.

The Mammoths had no time to dwell on the tough loss, though, as they traveled to Medford, Mass. for a massive game against ninth-ranked Tufts the very next day. The Jumbos started off as the stronger team, taking a 31-22 lead into the halftime break. After an even-matched third quarter, however, in which both sides scored 13 points apiece, the Mammoths’ resiliency shone through. Trailing by as much as 11 points early in the frame, the Mammoths outscored the Jumbos 27-9 in the final quarter to defeat Tufts 62-53. Zaffiro balled out in this game, dropping a season-high 23 points and adding 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. Valdez and AnLing Vera ’25 also had great performances, racking up multiple boards and points to help the Mammoths overcome the nationally-ranked Jumbos.

Coming off the win, the Mammoths traveled east to Williamstown to once again battle their rival Ephs. Powered by another strong performance from Valdez, who scored an impressive 20 points against the tough Ephs defense, the Mammoths won by a final score of 73-59. Vera had another strong showing, dropping an impressive 15 points in 19 minutes of play before exiting due to injury. Lauren Pelosi ’22 also made a significant contribution with 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.

On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Mammoths suffered a tough loss at home to Hamilton, with a final score of 52-43. Valdez led the Mammoths with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks while shooting five-of-eight from the field, notching her third double-double of the season and fourth straight game scoring in double figures. Pelosi also hit double figures in the game, with 11 points to go with five boards.

The Mammoths started their late-season revenge tour off right, defeating out-of-conference opponent Babson on Jan. 25 by a score of 58-41. After a closely contested first half, an 8-0 run by the Mammoths early in the third quarter widened the lead to 12, and a 10-0 run later in the quarter put the game out of reach, with the lead standing at 16 points. Valdez and Zaffiro again led the way offensively, each netting 12 points in the win, and Vera dished out six assists to lead the way for the Mammoths.

Next up — the Mammoths were back to NESCAC play, facing Wesleyan at home and beating them 61-54 on Jan. 28. After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead to begin the game, Amherst’s offensive firepower proved too much for the Cardinals’ defense to handle, and they never trailed en route to a clinching the Little Three title. The team was powered by strong performances from Valdez and Vera, who scored 20 and 13 points, respectively, as well as Patel, who did it all on her way to a 10-point, nine-rebound game.

After the milestone of the winning Little Three title, the Mammoths continued their win streak, recording back-to-back dominating road wins against Misericordia University and Worcester State University, beating the Cougars and the Lancers by a combined 47 points. In their 73-36 over the Cougars, the Mammoths went on their longest run of the season, putting down a 19-0 run in the second quarter that turned a tight affair into a blowout in the span of 10 minutes. These games were where the team’s depth really shone: first-year center Alix Stuart ’25 recorded seven points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field over the course of the two games, while Jade DuVal ’22, Abbey Skinner ’24, and Kori Barach ’25 made major contributions both in the scoresheet and on the boards.  

Having now hit their stride, the Mammoths returned to the NESCAC with victories against Colby and Bowdoin on Feb. 5 and 6. Against Colby, it was Valdez and Pelosi who led the Mammoths offensively. Valdez’s high scoring has become the norm this season, and her game against the Mules was no different. She recorded 17 points in the contest, her fifth game of the season with more than 15 points. But in Waterville, it was Pelosi who had her breakout game: she scored a career-high 17 points, going 5 for 8 from the field and 3 for 4 from three, as well as recording four rebounds and two assists in a season-high 32 minutes of action. These performances powered the Mammoths to a 59-47 victory.

The Mammoths put in another strong team effort on Sunday, sending the Polar Bears home in style with a 72-54 win. Not to be outdone by her teammates’ performances the day before, Vera put the team on her back, recording a 26-point, five-assist performance that included two buzzer-beating three-pointers, one of which came from two-thirds of the way down the court to beat the halftime horn.

In their third game in four days, the Mammoths returned to Amherst to face the Middlebury Panthers in a game that was initially postponed due to Covid-19 concerns. After a layup from Valdez and a three from Zaffiro on their first two possessions, the Mammoths jumped out to a 5-0 lead and didn't look back, maintaining that momentum on the way to a 43-26 halftime lead. The second half continued much like the first, and the Mammoths left Lefrak Gymnasium with a 72-56 victory. Zaffiro and Resch led the Mammoths with 20 and 15 points respectively, and Vera added 9 assists in the win.

The Mammoths are heading into the home stretch of the season with a 16-2 record and are ranked 11th in the country according to D3hoops.com. With the end of the season looming, the team hopes to continue its recent run of form into the NESCAC Tournament, set to begin Friday, Feb. 19.