By Matt Noonan
MEDFORD, MA – Clinging to a two-point advantage with 38 seconds remaining, Tufts University senior Tiffany Kornegay, (15 points, 10 rebounds) recorded two rebounds and two free throws in a span of nine seconds, which lifted the Jumbos past Misericordia University in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, 61-57.
“Misericordia really got after it, [and] I thought they played a great game, and made a lot of plays,” exclaimed Tufts head coach Carla Berube. “Down the stretch, we made the plays that we needed to, got some big rebounds, had some big shots contested and got rebounds and then got on the break.”
Both teams exchanged the lead nine times before freshman Hannah Foley and junior Collier Clegg, (11 points) helped Tufts relinquish it with back-to-back treys, which provided the Jumbos with a 32-26 lead at the break.
Tufts then constructed a 46-36 cushion to start the second half, which was erased and evened at 50-50 with five minutes remaining.
Senior Christine Marks, (22 points, 12 rebounds) sparked the Cougars offense with a few rebounds and free throws before senior Jesse Robinson, (16 points) provided Misericordia with their first lead in nearly 30 minutes when she recorded a pair at the stripe.
“Marks is just an excellent basketball player,” said Berube. “They’ve got a great supporting cast around her, and we had trouble defending them.”
Tufts eventually responded with a jump shot by Kornegay, which ballooned the Jumbos lead to 58-51 with 2:58 remaining.
“That shot got us into a rhythm, and I think we felt confident,” said Kornegay. “That’s what we needed to finish out the game.”
The Cougars then mustered six points during the final minute, but also watched Marks miss two consecutive layups, which halted Misericordia’s comeback to force overtime, and allowed the Jumbos to walk off their home court with a dramatic March Madness victory.
“Tiffany really pushed it out there in the end, and made plays when we need [them],” said Berube. “[Overall] it was exciting [because] it’s been a while I feel like that we’ve pulled out a game at the end when it’s really, really close, and Misericordia really tested us, so it doesn’t matter how you win now, it’s just about advancing and luckily we did that.”
Tufts will attempt to continue their quest toward a national championship when they face-off against Johns Hopkins University on Saturday, Mar. 3 at 7:00pm. The winner will earn a trip to sectional-finals, which is scheduled for Mar. 9.