March 2, 2012

Top-Ranked Amherst Overpowers Lady Bears in First NCAA Tournament Appearance

AMHERST, MA – In St. Joseph's (Brooklyn) first appearance in the NCAA Division III National Championships, the women's basketball team played their hearts out, but were simply overmatched by the number one team in the country, dropping an 84-30 decision to Amherst College on Friday evening at the LeFrak Gymnasium.

The Lady Bears faced an improbable task trying to upset the Lord Jeffs who entered the tournament with an unblemished 27-0 record; made their fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance; and began the defense of their first national title. On top of that, Amherst rode a 46-game winning streak and has not lost a contest at LeFrak Gymnasium in their last 63 games spanning over three years.

Junior Janine Doran (South Ozone Park, NY/Archbishop Molloy) led St. Joseph's (13-14) with nine points, three rebounds and three assists.  Senior Kristin Binckes (Brooklyn, NY/St. Saviour) secured a team-high seven caroms.  Senior Ashley McQuillan (Brooklyn, NY/St. Francis Prep) added five points with five rebounds and concludes her career with 1,486 tallies.  Junior Teresa Mangan (Cleveland, OH/St. Joseph's Academy) also chipped five points.

Amherst (28-0) utilized their deep-bench to assemble a balanced attack with only two players scoring in double figures led by Megan Robertson who had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, both game highs.  Marcia Voigt added 12 points in a reserve role and swiped a game-high four steals. 

It took some time for the Lady Bears to shake out the jitters and Amherst opened the contest scoring the first 12 points.  St. Joseph's finally got on the board two-and-a-half minutes in with a pair of free throws from Megan Moran (Syosset, NY/St. Dominic) and a Doran conventional three-point play at the 15:37 mark gave the Lady Bears their first field goal. 

Another Doran layup a minute later clipped the lead to 10, 17-7, but Amherst displayed their dominance scoring the next 15 points to build a commanding lead.  The Lady Bears struggled to find open looks with the Lord Jeffs size advantage – all but four players equal or taller than the tallest Lady Bear – but drained 4-of-6 from behind the arc in the half.

Stephanie Quick (Howard Beach, NY/Stella Maris) and Mangan connected from deep midway through the frame and McQuillan and Joanna Marciniec (Glendale, NY/Baruch) drained a pair of trifectas just before the break to give the Lady Bears some momentum headed into the lockers, despite trailing the champs, 52-24.

The Lord Jeffs defense, ranked number two in the nation in field goal defense and number three in points allowed, would clamp down in the second half, limiting the Lady Bears to six points and only two field goals.

Amherst finished the tilt connecting on over half of their shots (31-of-61) and used crisp passing to dole out 23 assists.  All but one player finished with at least one field goal and one assist.  The Lord Jeffs also finished with a 48-25 advantage on the glass.

Amherst advances to the second round hosting Babson College tomorrow at 8 p.m. at LeFrak Gymnasium.

Despite the lopsided loss, the experience of competing in the big dance, let alone against the number one team in the country, is something that will forever last in the team's memories as well as the many spirited fans who made the trek to Massachusetts and those who followed along online to support the squad in their attempt to achieve the improbable.