March 19, 2011
Amherst, Finucane go for title
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — It will be a familiar foe at a new, and highest, level for Cortland High graduate Shannon Finucane and the Amherst College women’s basketball team tonight.
With Finucane, a junior guard, contributing three points, four assists, four steals (both team highs) and a rebound, the Lord Jeff’s (now 31-1 and the winners of 18 straight) beat Christopher Newport 69-59 Friday evening in the NCI Division III semifinals at Illinois Wesley University’s Shirk Center. They’ll meet Washington U. of St.. Louis in today’s 8 p.m. (Eastern) national championship game, the Bears having beaten the hosts 87-77 in Friday’s other semifinal game. Christopher Newport (29-4) and Illinois Wesley (27-5) will vie in the consolation contest starting at 5 p.m. (Eastern).
This will be the third straight year that Amherst and Washington (25-5), the winner of five in a row and 16 of its last 18, have met in the Final Four, with the Bears claiming semifinal victories on both occasions.
Washington won 65-49 in 2008 and wound up losing in the title game, while Amherst dropped the consolation contest to the College of New Jersey, 82-74. Last spring the Bears downed the Lord Jeff’s 86-75 in overtime in the semis and went on to win the national championship the next night, while Amherst beat Rochester 56-44 in the consolation game.
Finucane’s three seasons at Amherst have marked the Lord Jeff’s’ only three Final Four appearances. They are only the fourth Division III women’s team ever to post back-to-back 30-win seasons, having gone 32-1 last season.
Christopher Newport scored 11 of the game’s first 13 points before the Lord Jeff’s roared back, Finucane hitting a 3-pointer to give them their first lead, at 15-13, with 8:45 left in the first half. The game was tied at 20-20 before Amherst scored the next five points and never trailed again, taking a 31-26 lead into half-time.
The winners led 45-41 with 12:25 left in the game before scoring the next seven points to go up 52-41 with eight minutes left and take control for good. Caroline Stedman scored 18 points to pace Amherst on Friday, while Sarah Layman had 14 points and Kristen Dunleavy and Lem Atanga McCormick added 10 apiece.
The Captains’ Chelsea Schemers had averaged 33 points a game in four NCI tournament contests but was held to 19, while Jessica More added 14 and Lauren Guar 13 in the losing cause.
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