Elite 8: Bruins, Saints go marching in

Jami Morris and George Fox sprinted to a quick lead at Calvin and stayed in front the rest of the way.
Photo by Robert Youngs, Jr., d3photography.com

The Final Four will feature two undefeated teams, one making a return trip to the national semifinals and another that dominated its opponent for the second time this season.

No 1. Thomas More blew past No. 2 St. Thomas 75-58 and into the Final Four for the first time in program history.

The Saints trailed the Tommies by three at the half before going on a 12-2 run to seize control. Sydney Moss erased the St. Thomas lead with a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the second half to key the run. She scored 25 of her 35 points in the second half and freshman Nikki Kiernan added eight points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The Tommies struggled to score in the second half without senior center Maggie Weiers, who was only able to play four minutes because of a knee injury suffered against Hope on Friday night. Anna Smith picked up the scoring slack early and finished with 21 points, but the Tommies shot 29 percent and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc after the break. St. Thomas revealed in the postgame that Smith was also playing on a torn ACL, which she incurred in the MIAC final.

This is the sixth time since 2000 that the top two teams have played each other and the second that the teams entered the game undefeated. The last time it happened was 2008 when Howard Payne beat Hope on its way to the national championship.

George Fox will make a return trip to Grand Rapids next weekend after eliminating Calvin, 78-63. The Bruins' dynamic duo of Jami Morris and Justine Benner entered the game on a 10-2 run with Morris nailing two threes. George Fox pushed the lead to double digits early in the second half and kept the Knights at arm's length the rest of the way.

Benner finished with 27 points, including 13-for-15 from the free throw line, while Morris scored 21. Kayla Engelhard finished her impressive tournament run with 20 points, six assists and five rebounds for Calvin.

Tufts ensured that Division III will crown a new women's basketball champion by eliminating FDU-Florham, 58-52. For the second night in a row, Tufts held an opponent 32 points below its season scoring average. The Devils managed one made field goal in the last five minutes while the Jumbos got big contributions from freshman Lauren Dillon (14 points, four assists) and sophomore Michela North (10 points, 11 rebounds). Alysa McDonough and Shalette Brown shared the scoring lead with 12 points each for FDU-Florham.

Tufts also avenged its loss to FDU-Florham in the national semifinals last season. The Jumbos' extended the NESCAC's string of Final Four appearances to seven consecutive seasons.

After building big leads and fending off rallies in its last two NCAA Tournament games, Montclair State had an easier time with Salisbury, beating the Sea Gulls 68-44. Just as the Red Hawks did in the first meeting between these teams, Montclair seized control in the first half and led by 15 at the break.

All-American Melissa Tobie shook off her tough shooting night against Bowdoin on Friday and sank her first four shots as the Red Hawks charged out to a 25-8 lead. Janitza Aquino hit a three-pointer early in the second half to push Montclair's lead to 20 and the Red Hawks cruised from there.

Tobie led the way with 22 points, including the 2,000th of her career, and 11 rebounds while Sarah Seipp finished with 13 points for Salisbury.

Thomas More and Montclair State will make their first appearance in the NCAA national semifinals while George Fox makes its third trip, with the last one in 2012. The Saints are also the first team from the Presidents' Athletic Conference to make the NCAA women's basketball Final Four.

Saturday's results also keep two more streaks alive. Washington U. remains the last team to win consecutive women's basketball titles, with the last of four coming in 2001. NYU remains the last team to win the women's basketball title on its own floor (1997). The Division III women's Final Four first went to predetermined sites in 1999.