Tommies can't close out Tufts, fall 60-57

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Despite a 20-point, 20-rebound performance by senior center Kaitlin Langer, No. 2-ranked St. Thomas women's basketball saw its unbeaten streak and season end with a 60-57 loss to No. 4-ranked Tufts (Mass.) in Friday's NCAA Division III semifinals clash in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Melissa Baptista had 16 points and four steals for the Jumbos (30-2), who sank three 3-pointers and converted a conventional three-point play during a game-closing 19-4 run over the final 5:16.

Lauren Dillon missed her first five 3-point tries of the game but sank a trey with 2:51 to play as part of the comeback for Tufts, which is playing in its fourth consecutive Final Four.

St. Thomas (31-1), playing in just its second Final Four in 17 seasons, still led 55-50 with 90 seconds to play, but the Jumbos outscored it 10-2 down the stretch.

UST pulled within 58-57 with nine seconds to go on a Lucia Renikoff basket. After a time out, St. Thomas fouled, Tufts made 1-of-2 free throws, grabbed a key offensive rebound, got the fifth foul on Langer, and again made 1-of-2 with :07 to go.

The Tommies dashed up court but their potential game-tying 3-point shot with :02 left by Renikoff brushed the front of rim and fell away.

St. Thomas had a 46-22 rebounding advantage but committed 20 turnovers and were outscored 21-9 at the 3-point arc.

The Tommies trailed 37-31 midway through the third quarter but used a 22-4 run to build a 12-point lead with just under 6:00 remaining. But UST made just 2-of-7 shots and had four turnovers thereafter, while Tufts produced a huge momentum shift as it made 5-of-7 shots and 7-of-10 free throws to erase the 12-point deficit.

Langer played just 10 first-half minutes due to two quick fouls and had six points and eight boards at halftime. Her 20 rebounds were a career high, breaking her old best of 19 set last Saturday against Whitman.

Renikoff had 12 points and Lauren Fischer added eight rebounds for the Tommies, who graduate three senior starters in Langer, Gabby Zehrer and Paige Gernes.

In seven postseason games this season Langer averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds. In 111 games at St. Thomas, she closed with 1,299 points and 651 rebounds.

This was St. Thomas' sixth trip to the national semifinals. Since winning the NCAA crown in 1991, the Tommies are 0-5 in Friday national semifinal games since then (1995, 1996, 2000, 2012 and 2017).

Tufts will play the Amherst-Christopher Newport winner Saturday night for the championship.