March 21, 2011
Amherst, Finucane take title
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — With Cortland High graduate Shannon Finucane providing a big boost with a pair of clutch second half 3-pointers, Amherst College women are the NCAA Division III basketball champions for the first time in school history.
Making their third straight Final Four appearance, the Lord Jeffs (32-1) defeated defending champion Washington University in St. Louis by a 64-55 margin Saturday evening at the Illinois Wesleyan University Shirk Center.
Amherst lost to the Bears in the semifinals of the 2009 and 2010 national tournaments but used exceptional defense and another outstanding team effort to prevent Washington from claiming its sixth national title.
Finucane connected on her clutch 3-pointers within a span of three minutes to give Amherst a 35-29 advantage with 11:16 to play, and the Bears would not regain the lead the rest of the way. Those six points were all the 5-foot-3 point guard scored in her 14 minutes of court time. She was 2-for-5 from the floor, all shots taken from beyond the 3-point arc.
Finucane finished her junior season averaging seven points per game with a team-best 98 assists.
Amherst shot only 34.3 percent overall but knocked down 10 shots from 3-point distance in the title game, including a 6-for-10 performance from downtown in the second half. The Jeffs did not attempt a single free throw in the first half and took only two in the first 15:27 of the second period, but they would go 8-for-10 at the line in the final 4:33.
Kim Fiorentino led a tenacious defensive effort on both Friday and Saturday for Amherst, but it was her 3-pointer from the left wing with four minutes remaining in the title game that all but wrapped up the tournament. When Lem Atanga McCormick followed with a three-point play to make it a 57-44 game with 3:30 on the clock, the Amherst fans who traveled more than 1,000 miles to see their Jeffs in action began to taste victory.
Caroline Stedman’s 19 points paced the Amherst scoring, with Fiorentino adding 10 and Jaci Daigneault and Atanga McCormick chipping in with nine apiece. The Lord Jeffs held a 26-13 edge in rebounds in the second half, including a 12-3 advantage in offensive boards.
When the 2011-12 season begins, Amherst will put on the line a 19-game overall winning streak and a 49-game home unbeaten streak.
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