Women’s Basketball Starts 2021 Season with Three Big Wins

The 16th-ranked Amherst women’s basketball team returned to the court for the first time in two years this past week, going 3-0 in three opening weekend contests against Oglethorpe University, The United States Coast Guard Academy, and Rhode Island College.

Senior guard Courtney Resch '22 goes up for a layup during the Mammoths' 2019 NCAA Tournament Sectional Final at LeFrak Gymnasium.

The 16th-ranked women’s basketball team returned to the court for the first time in two years this past week, going 3-0 in three opening weekend contests. They started their season with games on Friday and Saturday against Oglethorpe University and the United States Coast Guard Academy at the Gordon Classic, played at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. They then returned home to take on Rhode Island College on Monday, Nov. 15.

Oglethorpe

In their season opener, the Mammoths didn’t seem to miss a beat, notching their first win of the season at the Gordon Classic, held at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. They did so in dominating fashion, beating the Stormy Petrels by a score of 53-36 in a game in which they never lost the lead. From the tip, Amherst’s offense was firing on all cylinders, starting the game on a 13-2 run. The offensive explosion was capped off by a beautiful buzzer-beating floater from sophomore point guard Reeya Patel ’24 that stretched the Mammoths’ lead to 29-15 points going into halftime.

Even with the lead sitting at 14 points at the start of the third quarter, they kept their foot on the gas, with senior forward Dani Valdez ’22 hitting a pull-up jumper to stretch the lead to 19. However, the Stormy Petrels would use the growing deficit to spur them to battle back in the contest, and outscored the Mammoths 15-13 in the third quarter. Not to be deterred by that setback, the Mammoths would match their offensive firepower with defensive effort, holding Oglethorp to only six points in the fourth while scoring 11 points themselves, and widening the gap to the final 17-point margin.

Valdez had one of the best games of her career against Oglethorpe, recording a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double, the first of her career. Patel also had a stellar collegiate debut, scoring 11 points and dishing out four assists in 39 minutes of action. Abbey Skinner ’24, Nicole Stanford ’24, AnLing Vera ’25, Alix Stuart ’25, and Maya Cwalina ’25 also made their collegiate debuts in the game.

Coast Guard

The Mammoths didn’t rest on their laurels after wiping the court with the Stormy Petrels, returning to the court the following day and winning their second game by an even larger margin, 70-42 over Coast Guard. Just like the day before, the Mammoths started the game on an offensive hot streak, scoring 15 points in the first frame. However, unlike the Stormy Petrels, the Bears didn’t go down right away, keeping up with the pace of the game and trading baskets with the Mammoths until the first quarter ended with the score tied at 15-15. But most teams can’t keep up with Amherst’s firepower, and just like Oglethorp, the Bears succumbed to the pressure. In this game, it was senior guard Gabi Zaffiro ’22 that provided the spark, out-scoring the entire Coast guard team in the second quarter, contributing 13 of the Mammoths’ 24 points. With this offensive effort, the score stood at 39-27, with Amherst leading going into halftime. From here, the Mammoths rode their big second quarter to victory, playing another impressive quarter of defense in the third and stretching their lead to 20 after outscoring the Bears by 10 points in the frame. The game would mercifully end soon after, with the final margin of victory at 28 points and the Mammoths returning home with yet another win.

Zaffiro’s final statline of 19 points, three rebounds, and three assists paced the team, as did her 75 percent clip from the three-point line. Patel and Valdez also notched big games, with Patel recording 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, and Valdez scoring 10 points in addition to bringing down eight boards and recording two blocks and two steals. Senior guard Lauren Pelosi ’22 led the Mammoths’ effort from the free throw line, going six for six in the contest.

Rhode Island College

In their final game of the week, the Mammoths returned home to LeFrak Gymnasium to take on the Rhode Island College (RIC) Anchorwomen. Just like in their previous two games, the Mammoths started the game on an offensive run, out-scoring the Anchorwomen 22-7 in the first quarter with the help of a 14-4 run. Valdez was the main contributor to the team’s initial run, going four for four from the field and two for two from the free throw line on the way to 10 opening-quarter points.

Defense was the name of the game in the second for the Mammoths, holding RIC to six points, and stretching their halftime lead to 23 points with help from two three-pointers from Pelosi and one from Courtney Resch ’22. However, while the lead would rise as large as 31 points after back-to-back threes from Vera in the third quarter, the Anchorwomen would storm back with a vengeance, closing the frame on a 15-1 run that narrowed the margin back to 17 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It was here that the Mammoths would end RIC’s hopes for a miracle, with forward Jade DuVal ’22 dominating in the paint on the way to six points in the final period, and shutting the door on the Anchorwomen’s comeback attempt. After a few more minutes of game action, the contest would end with a lopsided final score of 64-42 in favor of the Mammoths.

Underclassmen paced the Mammoths against RIC, with Patel and Vera each recording 13 points for the best scoring outputs of their young Amherst careers. Patel also recorded eight rebounds and a steal in the contest, and Vera led the Mammoths in made threes with three of her four shots from beyond the arc going through the nylon. Zaffiro and Valdez also recorded double-digit points in the win.

The Mammoths will return to Hixon Court at LeFrak Gymnasium on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. against the Gordon College Fighting Scots, before travelling to Jersey City, N.J. to play New Jersey City University on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 3:00 p.m.