|Photos by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com|
Saturday evening marks the first time that two teams from the same conference will meet in the national title game in Division III basketball. As such, we thought it would be good to look back on the two times that No. 1 Amherst and No. 4 Tufts have met this season.
"The rivalry runs deep with them. We know what they do and they know what we do," Amherst senior All-American Ali Doswell said after the national semifinals. "It just comes down to who can execute the best tomorrow."
Winning with defense
Spoiler alert: Amherst and Tufts play great defensively, including against one another. Here's how great:
|Team||Feb. 4 at Tufts||Feb. 26 at Amherst|
|Tufts FG||13-44 (.295)||15-54 (.278)|
|Amh FG||10-39 (.256)||15-36 (.417)|
|Tufts 3FG||2-13 (.154)||5-22 (.227)
|Amh 3FG||3-10 (.300)||0-7 (.000)|
Execution has been key, as the past four meetings between the teams have been decided by a total of six points. On Feb. 4, Tufts came into its regular season home game with Amherst ranked No. 1 in the country, and Amherst came in No. 2 in a battle of unbeatens, which Amherst won by a 36-35 score.
Tufts jumped out to an early 12-3 lead and was up 18-8 at the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to a seven-point spurt by Melissa Baptista to open the game and a 3-pointer by Jacqueline Knapp in the closing seconds, but the Purple and White limited the Jumbos to just three points in the second to cut the deficit to three by halftime.
Amherst cut the lead to one to open the second half before Tufts went on a 7-0 run to edge the lead back out to 28-20. Amherst cut the lead to 30-26 entering the fourth quarter.
Trailing 35-31 late in the fourth quarter, Jackie Nagle hit the back end of two free throws for Amherst, before Doswell hit the second of two foul shots to make it 35-33 in favor of the Jumbos with 1:58 on the clock. Following a steal by Jaimie Renner, Hannah Hackley powered in a layup and converted the ensuing free throw after being fouled on the play to make it 36-35 Amherst with just 1:18 on the clock.
Renner forced a turnover with one second left to seal the victory.
It was the third consecutive time that a game between Tufts and Amherst has been decided by one point. The Jumbos fell short to visiting Amherst, 50-49, in the 2016 NESCAC final on Feb. 28, after defeating host Amherst, 52-51, on Feb. 6, 2016.
The second meeting between the two teams came in the NESCAC tournament final. It was a game in which top-ranked Amherst scored more than half of its points in the third quarter. Amherst scored 21 of its 41 points in that frame en route to a 41-37 win at home vs. No. 3 Tufts.
Taking a 16-10 lead into the third quarter, Tufts extended that as Michela North opened the second half with a basket, but Amherst went on a 9-0 run to take a 19-18 lead. Melissa Baptista gave the Jumbos the lead again, but Meredith and Ali Doswell answered with back-to-back layups and Ali scored five more points in the quarter to make the lead 31-22. Tufts got as close as four points three in the final two minutes, all on Baptista 3-pointers, but her 19 points were not enough.
Ali Doswell finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, though she missed five of seven free throws. She added nine rebounds and five assists. Baptista had a game-high 19, with 10 more from North.
The two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Calvin College's Van Noord Arena. If it's a three-peat, Amherst will take home a much larger trophy than the previous two games provided. If Tufts salvages one game of the three, nobody will remember the other two.