Women's hoops clinches sixth seed

A win over Connecticut College on Feb. 13 and a loss to Wesleyan University the next day secured Amherst the sixth seed in the NESCAC Tournament. The Jeffs’ final record was 11-13 overall and 3-6 in the NESCAC.

Amherst began the final weekend of the regular season 2-5 in NESCAC play with the end of the season on the line. However, the Jeffs had a few reasons to remain optimistic, especially because last week the Jeffs’ buzzer-beater victory over Trinity College moved the Jeffs into the eighth and final playoff position. The team still needed one more conference win to secure a berth in the postseason. The win and the possibility of the season ending early were enough motivation for the Jeffs this weekend, however, as they bounced back, showing the form that led them to a 6-1 start early in the season.

“We started out really strong,” said senior co-captain Marissa McGuire. “We didn’t do as well as we would have liked to in the middle of the season. We pulled it together at the end and got a good NESCAC seed. We’re definitely in a good place right now.”

In order to get to a “good place,” Amherst had to win one of two games this weekend, and the Jeffs took away the suspense early on. Amherst easily beat Conn on Friday, 83-39. Katie Latham ’06 led the Jeffs with 12 points and classmate Julie Smith chipped in with nine points and a career-high seven blocks. Rookie Liz Avis contributed a career-high 10 points as well. Amherst dominated with a balanced attack, as 11 Jeffs scored points in the victory. Conn was led by Molly Gage, who scored 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

The Jeffs dominated the Camels from the opening tip-off. Just four minutes into the game Amherst jumped out to a 12-4 lead. Amherst was stellar on both sides of the ball, scoring 36 points in the first half and limiting the Camels to a mere eight field goals, while blocking five of their shots.

This offensive and defensive momentum catapulted Amherst into the second half. The Jeffs shot as well as they have this season after halftime. Their shooting percentage was 52.6 percent, and they were a perfect four-for-four from the foul line. On defense, the Jeffs took down 24 boards to take advantage of the Camels’ dismal 20 percent shooting. The Jeffs outplayed the Camels in every aspect of the game.

Saturday’s game against the Wesleyan University Cardinals marked the last regular-season home game for senior quad-captains LaShauna Barboza, Caitlin Farrell, McGuire and Shannon Russell. The four have won 57 games for Amherst over the past four seasons.

Despite a career-high 14 points for Morin, the Jeffs could not defeat their Little Three rival in the last regular-season game of the year, losing 78-62.

Despite the 16-point final margin, the game stayed close until late in the second half. Amherst battled the Cardinals in the first half, trailing by only two with one minute remaining. However, Wesleyan responded with a three-pointer and a jumper right before the buzzer sounded, to bring the halftime score to 38-31. Amherst’s deficit fluctuated between four and 11 points for much of the second half. Wesleyan’s free-throw shooting was excellent in the final minutes of the game, as the Cardinals sank six of seven from the line, extending their lead.

Russell and Farrell recorded 11 points apiece for the Jeffs in their final game at LeFrak Gymnasium. Smith added five rebounds and a game-high five blocks. Wesleyan had four players score over 13 points, including Hannah Stubbs who led the Cardinals with 17.

Sixth-seeded Amherst will play at third-seeded Bates College on Saturday at 3 p.m. Amherst will try to avenge Jan. 31’s 72-46 loss.

McGuire said the Jeffs will “need to play aggressive defense” in order to win. If Amherst plays with confidence, the Jeffs may be able to find their winning ways from the early going and lengthen a season that was on the brink of concluding.