Calvin College Set to Host NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championships March 17 & 18

Calvin College Set to Host NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championships March 17 & 18

NCAA DIVISION III WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT INTERACTIVE BRACKET

The four teams headed to Grand Rapids to compete in the NCAA III Tournament Semifinals and Finals next weekend are set.

The four teams advancing to the finals in Grand Rapids are Amherst (31-0), St. Thomas (31-0), Tufts (29-2) and Christopher Newport (29-2).

The NCAA III Tournament semifinals are set for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on March 17. The NCAA III Tournament final is slated for March 18 at 7:30 p.m.

All three games will take place inside Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin College.

The weekend tournament will feature a pair of undefeated teams in Amherst (Mass.) and St. Thomas (Mn.) and a pair of 29-2 teams in Christopher Newport (Va.) and Tufts (Mass.). 
On Friday, St. Thomas (31-0) and Tufts (29-2) will meet in the first semifinal game at 5 p.m. with Amherst (31-0) and Christopher Newport (29-2) will meet in the semifinal to follow at 7:30 p.m. 
Friday's winners will meet in the national championship final Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets to the weekend games are available through the Calvin Box Office. Tickets will also be available at kiosks inside the Dave Tuuk Welcome Center inside the main lobby of the Calvin Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The following are capsules on the four competing teams this weekend:
AMHERST (31-0)

The Amherst College women's basketball team enters NCAA Division III Championship Final Four action boasting a 31-0 record. This season marks the third time in program history that the Purple & White take the court with an unblemished record having accomplished the feat in 2009-10 and 2011-12.

Amherst has tallied an impressive, 18-0 record at home, a 12-0 mark in road contests, and is 1-0 in neutral games this season. The Purple & White average 70.1 points per game and allow a miniscule 40.0 points per game.

Led by the NESCAC Player of the Year and First Team All-NESCAC honoree Ali Doswell '17, Amherst earned the top seed in the NESCAC Championship after completing a perfect 10-0 record in league action that included a thrilling, comeback 36-35 win over fellow Final Four participant Tufts University on Feb. 4 in Medford, Mass. The Purple & White defeated Bates College, 76-35 in the NESCAC Quarterfinals, and Colby College, 53-33 in the NESCAC Semifinals, before dispatching the Jumbos for a second time in the conference title game, 41-37. The NESCAC crown was Amherst's second in as many years, and the program's seventh overall.

Joining Ali Doswell, who averages 12.9 points and 4.8 rebounds, on the All-NESCAC First Team was twin sister Meredith Doswell '17 who averages 8.3 points and 6.3 boards per game in 2016-17. Madeline Eck '20 enjoyed a superb debut campaign and was tabbed as the NESCAC Rookie of the Year. Eck averages 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. At the helm is 10th-year head coach G.P. Gromacki who was named the NESCAC Coach of the Year for the second straight season and sixth time during his time in the Pioneer Valley. 

After winning the NESCAC title, Amherst, ranked first in both the D3hoop.com and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches Top 25 polls, was the first team announced into the NCAA Tournament and in the midst of its 10th consecutive national postseason appearance. The Purple & White took down Regis College, 65-37 in NCAA First Round action, and then ousted the University of Mary Washington, 60-51 in the NCAA Second Round. Advancing to its 10th straight NCAA Sectional weekend. In the round of 16, Amherst took down Babson College, 63-39, and then defeated UMass Dartmouth, 73-33 to earn its second trip to the NCAA III Tournament Semifinals in the last two seasons, and the seventh in program history. 

CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT (29-2)

The Christopher Newport women's basketball team returns to the National Semifinals for the second time in program history after one of the finest seasons in the 45-year history of women's basketball at CNU. The Captains captured the program's first Capital Athletic Conference Championship, both regular season and tournament, and has won nine straight games heading into the Final Four.

CNU is powered by one of the nation's top defensive units while leaning on balance on the offensive end. Christopher Newport ranks second nationally in total steals, and in the top five for turnovers forced, steals per game, and three-point field goal percentage defense. Led by junior Sam Porter, the ball-hawking defense has picked up nearly 500 steals, ranking third all-time in program history with 488. Porter has grabbed 115, which ranks as the fifth best single season performance all-time, trailing only CNU legend Karen Barefoot with all four top marks in Captains lore.

Despite having only one player averaging double figures in points this season, the Captains offense ranks 22nd nationally in scoring with over 74 points per game. Porter leads the way with nearly 13 points per game, while three more juniors, Makenzie Fancher, Anitra Thomas, and Devon Byd, are averaging between 7.2 and 7.6 points per contest. Showcasing the team's depth during this season, nine different players were the team's leading scorer in at least one game.

Christopher Newport opened the 2016-17 season with the second longest win streak in program history, opening up with a 19-0 mark before suffering the team's first loss to nationally-ranked Mary Washington. CNU then dropped a matchup to nationally-ranked Marymount, a Sweet 16 participant this year, for their only other loss of the season. Since then, the Captains have won all nine games, including three straight to capture the first regular season conference crown, two CAC tournament games to win the first conference title, and four straight NCAA Tournament games. 
CNU is appearing in its fourth NCAA Tournament in five seasons under head coach Bill Broderick. The Captains have advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in all four trips, and have improved to 11-3 in NCAA Tournament play under Coach Broderick. It is also the sixth straight time the Captains have advanced to at least the sectional round, dating back to the 2011 season.

Broderick collected his first career "Bill Finney" CAC Coach of the Year honor this season, sharing the postseason accolade with Frostburg State's Carrie Saunders. Also earning All-CAC honors were Sam Porter, a first-team selection, and second-team picks Devon Byrd and Makenzie Fancher. Porter went on to collect second team All-Region honors from D3hoops.com. 

ST. THOMAS (31-0)

St. Thomas graduated just one starter from a 26-4 team that lost in the round of 16 in March 2016. A few of the current players came off the bench for some minutes on UST's 30-1 team that advanced all the way to the quarterfinals before losing at Thomas More (Ky), the eventual champion.

The 2016-17 Tommies went 2-0 in tournaments in Maryland in November and Ohio in December. At the latter event, they had comeback victories over nationally-ranked Hope (Mich.) and Bluffton (Ohio).

St. Thomas went 18-0 to win its conference regular-season for the third year in a row. The closest call was a 75-69 road victory on Feb. 1 at then unbeaten Gustavus before a record crown in St. Peter, Minn., of more than 3,000 fans.

Gustavus and the Tommies played round two on Feb. 26 in the conference playoff finals in UST's arena. St. Thomas raced to a 30-16 lead after one quarter and went on to post a 66-49 win. Gustavus' lone two losses through 27 games were against the Tommies.

The Tommies rank near the top of Division III stats in a few categories: fourth nationally in FT percentage (77.8); sixth in FG percentage; 15th in 3FG percentage (36.5); as well as sixth in scoring margin.

St. Thomas starter three seniors: All-America center Kaitlin Langer, point guard Paige Gernes, and guard Gabby Zehrer. Langer repeated as West Region and conference Player of the Year. She has surpassed 500 points in each of her last two seasons. In 11 career postseason starts she's averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds a game.

St. Thomas went 17-0 at home this season. They went 7-0 against teams that advanced to the Division III national tournament. They also won 14 games away from home, including 12 road games. St. Thomas has been victorious in 46 of its last 49 road or neutral games over the last four seasons.

UST has limited five of its six conference and NCAA postseason foes under 57 points.
In their second NCAA playoff game, the Tommies fell behind the University of Chicago by eight points in the third quarter. But a strong fourth-quarter surge propelled UST to a 73-69 victory. 
The Tommies trailed by six points early in the fourth quarter of the round of 16 game against Marymount (Va.), their largest fourth-quarter deficit of the season. But they used a game-closing 17-4 run over the final nine minutes to advance with a 62-55 victory.

The next night, their March 11 sectional championship win over Whitman (Wash.) was the program's No. 50 in NCAA tournament play all time. They are 50-23 (.684) in 24 NCAA playoff trips over the last 34 seasons and 17-5 (.773) in the last six years, when their overall record is 167-18 (.903).

St. Thomas has won 47 of its last 48 games, with the only loss to Wartburg in the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. The Tommies have won 82 straight games over three years when allowing 65 or fewer points.

St. Thomas' 31-0 record matches the program's 2012 Final Four team for the most victories in school history. This is the program's sixth trip to to the NCAA III Tournament Semifinals which includes an NCAA championship in 1991; and third-place finishes in 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2012.
TUFTS (29-2)

The Tufts University women's basketball team advanced to its fourth consecutive NCAA "Final Four" this season and brings a 29-2 record into the national semi-finals on Friday.
Head coach Carla Berube's Jumbos graduated four seniors from last year's team that advanced to the NCAA Championship Game, played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as part of the 35th anniversary celebration of the NCAA women's championship. The Jumbos lost to Thomas More, 63-51, in the national championship game.

Tufts brought back four starters this season, but graduation left them with less experience on the bench. However, with All-American Michela North, junior Melissa Baptista emerging as an all-star and junior point guard Lauren Dillon running the show, expectations for the 2016-17 Jumbos were high once again.

The Jumbos started the season at #1 in the D3hoops.com national poll and remained there for nine weeks while winning their first 21 games. However, in a showdown with conference rival Amherst on February 4, the Jumbos lost 36-35 in a game that came down to the last play. The defeat ended a string of 39 consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) wins by Tufts.

The Jumbos and Amherst would meet again in the NESCAC final, and again the Purple and White would win a very close contest 41-37. Tufts received an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, their eighth in a row and ninth overall. They hosted an NCAA Regional at Cousens Gymnasium March 3-4 and defeated St. Joseph's (Maine) 65-44 in the first round and Husson 64-44 in the second round to advance to the Round of 16.

Hoping to host the Sectional rounds at Cousens, Tufts was instead sent to Washington University in St. Louis. The Jumbos showed their mettle away from home, defeating Scranton 65-48 in the Round of 16 and then knocking off the host Bears 57-43 in the national quarterfinals.

As is usual under Coach Berube, the Jumbos have been one of the best defensive teams in Division III this year. They enter the "Final Four" ranked second nationally allowing 42.5 points per game. Only three times in their 31 games have they allowed 50 or more points. Not surprisingly, the Jumbos are also ranked ninth nationally in field goal percentage defense with a .315 mark.
The Jumbos are averaging 62.9 points per game entering the weekend. Baptista leads the team with a 12.6 scoring average and is the top three-point shooter with 43 on the season and a .358 percentage. The All-NESCAC first team pick also leads Tufts with 53 blocks.

North, who was huge against WashU in the "Elite 8" with 20 points and 15 rebounds, will graduate this year as the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Also an All-NESCAC first team selection, she recently surpassed the 1,500 career points milestone and the 1,000 career rebounds mark.

Sophomore Jac Knapp has blossomed during the NCAA Tournament for Tufts, leading the squad with 15.3 points per game while shooting .559 (19/34). Dillon, the NESCAC's Defensive Player of the Year, set a single-season steals record for Tufts with 89 thus far.

Tufts has received an excellent freshman contribution from Erica Candido, who's averaging 5.8 points and played 29 minutes in the national quarterfinal game. Finally healthy, junior Jennie Mucciarone has been a key contributor off the bench this year. Senior Josie Lee and Katy Hicks, who with North have been on the four straight national semifinalist teams, are tournament tested.