Amherst finished its three-game season series with a clean sweep of Tufts, and with it, got to take home the Walnut and Bronze, winning its second national championship, 52-29. It was the lowest-scoring Division III title game in the history of Division III basketball, and Amherst's 29 points allowed were the fewest in a national title game, as well as in any NCAA Tournament game this season.
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Amherst won all three meetings with its NESCAC rival in 2017, the first two by a combined total of five points. This was the highest-scoring of the three meetings, but also the fewest points Tufts scored all season.
Amherst’s stifling defense allowed the Purple & White (33-0) to take a 20-6 lead into the locker room at halftime. Tufts shot just 3-for-19 from the floor and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
"We really didn't change anything strategically," said Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki. "These guys just wanted it bad. Every loose ball they were on the floor, especially the first few minutes. They wanted the game so bad I think that was the difference, but we didn't change what we did defensively."
The Jumbos (30-3) came out with a little more intensity in the second half, scoring the first seven points to cut their deficit in half. But Amherst maintained its lead and extended it in the fourth quarter en route to the victory.
|In Tufts' best quarter, the Jumbos shot 5-for-13. In the rest, they were a combined 6-for-32.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
Lowest-scoring women's title games
The lowest scoring Division III basketball championship game entering the weekend was actually a men's game, where the University of Rochester defeated DePauw 43-42 for the 1990 national title. Here are the lowest-scoring women's games:
|2017||Amherst def. Tufts, 52-29||81|
|1984||Rust def. Elizabethtown, 51-49||100|
|2012||Illinois Wesleyan def. George Fox, 57-48||105|
|2007||DePauw def. Washington U., 55-52||107|
|1995||Capital def. UW-Oshkosh, 59-52||111|
Ali Doswell led the way with 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting on way to Most Outstanding Player honors at the championship. Emma McCarthy added 11, nine of them at the foul line, while Meredith Doswell scored 10 and had nine rebounds in the win.
Amherst built its lead with a dominant second quarter, shooting 6-for-10 from the floor and extending its five-point lead to 14 at the half.
Michela North scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Jumbos, who had their season end in the Final Four for the fourth consecutive year, the last two as national runners-up.
"The last 10 minutes down in the locker room is the most difficult 10 minutes of my year because I'm so incredibly proud of my team, especially my seniors, for four straight Final Fours, two championship games," said Tufts coach Carla Berube. "Today I told them we're not defined by the score on the board at the end of the game, we're defined by the group that we are and the team we became this year. It's one of the tightest teams I've ever been a part of."
All three of Tufts' losses came to Amherst, once in NESCAC play, once in the NESCAC tournament final and in the national championship game.
"I guess it's better to lose against a NESCAC team, and show the country how good the NESCAC is," Berube said. "It's tough and it's gritty and I think we both play a great brand of basketball."
"It didn't matter who we were playing, whether it was the first round, the Sweet 16 or the Final Four," Gromacki said. "We came into it, didn't matter who we played. Our goal from the end of last year was the same goal. It just worked out to happen that way."
Amherst previously won the national title in 2011. This was the program's seventh trip to the Final Four and its second time in the title game, all under Gromacki.
Joining Ali Doswell on the all-tournament team were Amherst's Meredith Doswell, Tufts' Michela North, St. Thomas' Kaitlin Langer and Christopher Newport's Devon Byrd. The title game was played in front of 535 fans, the fewest in Division III basketball history.
"It wasn't pretty and maybe people watching online didn't get what they wanted, but I think for people in the gym they knew how hard each team fought to get this outcome," Gromacki said. "It didn't matter if we won it 2-0. At 2-0, we'd be happy."
|Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com|