|Amherst's Emma McCarthy scored 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the Mammoths' 66-48 win over Thomas More.
Photo by Cory Chuchna, d3photography.com
Amherst shut down Thomas More in the first half and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 66-48 victory in the 2018 NCAA Division III women’s basketball national semifinals on Friday night.
- Box score
- Scroll down for postgame press conferences
- Game photos by D3photography.com
- Amherst's focus on defense, not title defense
After Thomas More scored the first five points of the game, Amherst clamped down on defense and used its size on offense to score 13 straight, capped by a three-point play from Emma McCarthy and another three from McCarthy. Thomas More struggled to find open looks in the first half against the Amherst defense, which used its length and speed to hold the Saints to 1-for-10 shooting over the final 8-plus minutes of the first period and built a 21-11 lead.
The teams traded baskets throughout the second quarter and Thomas More scored the final three points of the period to get into the locker room within nine at 29-20. McCarthy finished the first half with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Amherst sophomore Cam Hendricks matched up with Great Lakes Region Player of the Year Madison Temple and held her to four points on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half.
In the third quarter Thomas More got back into the game and got its crowd into it as well with an 8-2 run including two baskets by Taylor Jolly. Amherst stopped the run with a three by Hendricks but Thomas More used a full court press to generate a fast break basket by Emily Schultz off an Amherst turnover and a three from Temple that cut the Mammoths lead to 40-39. With the Thomas More fans on their feet, Amherst point guard Hannah Fox connected with Hendricks for a three at the third quarter buzzer to set the score at 43-39.
|Madeline Eck and the Amherst defense didn't give Thomas More much room to work all game.
Photo by Cory Chuchna, d3photography.com
"[That shot] was huge. Cam stepped up and made some big shots earlier in the game, too," said Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki. "I think it just made us believe a little bit more."
In the fourth quarter Amherst appeared to catch a break when a Thomas More pass deflected off a Mammoth’s foot without a kick ball called. Fox dove to the floor, grabbed the loose ball and called time out. Out of the break Fox came off a screen at the top of the arc and hit a three pointer, pushing the lead to 48-41. Hackley added two free throws and McCarthy added one more to finish an 11-2 Mammoths run.
Eck pushed the Amherst lead back to double-digits, 53-43, by head faking the Thomas More defense out of the way and banking the shot off the glass for two. Down by 10 with under three minutes to play, the Saints fouled Amherst to extend the game. Maeve McNamara made six straight free throws and the Mammoths put the game away, 66-48.
McCarthy finished with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Madeline Eck scored 11 points and Hannah Hackley chipped in 10 for the Mammoths (32-0). The 6-foot-1 Hackley was also the primary defender assigned to Thomas More All-American point guard Abby Owings and held her to 2 points on 1-for-12 shooting.
Temple led the Saints with 14 points and seven rebounds. Thomas More’s 48 points were the lowest output of the season and nearly 40 points below their season average.
"[Defense] is our mantra," said Hackley. "I think we thrive on that. It's something we're passionate about and it really drives our offense."
Amherst's victory extends its winning streak to 65 games with the last loss coming on March 19 to Thomas More in the 2016 NCAA Tournament national semifinals.
"We don't think about it," Gromacki said. "We were worried about who were playing today and now we're worried about who we're playing tomorrow. I think if you asked our team earlier in the season...I don't think they could've even answered that, and I think that's a good thing."
Amherst will play NESCAC rival Bowdoin in the national championship game tomorrow at 8:30 pm ET/7:30 pm CT. Bowdoin defeated Wartburg 90-62 in the other national semifinal.