By Matt Noonan
Four local Division 3 conference tournament championships will occur this afternoon and below is a preview of each contest.
Men’s NESCAC Championship: No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 2 Williams @ Amherst, Mass. / 12 p.m.: For the third time this season, Amherst and Williams will meet on the hardwood, but this particular contest will determine the NESCAC champion. Aaron Toomey poured in a game-best 36 points yesterday as the Lord Jeffs defeated Trinity, 80-62. As for the Ephs, they defeated Middlebury, 78-75. Williams rallied from an 11-point deficit at the break to defeat the Panthers and received 27 points from Michael Mayer. Amherst and Williams met last season in the title round with the Lord Jeffs edging the Ephs, 74-73. Williams is number one in conference play in points per game (81.3), while Amherst is second (78.6). Amherst is currently on a seven-game winning streak is undefeated at home this season, while Williams has won 10 straight, including two conference tournament contests. The Ephs are 10-1 away from Williamstown.
Women’s NESCAC Championship: No. 1 Tufts vs. No. 2 Amherst @ Medford, Mass. / 12 p.m.: The Jumbos will attempt to capture their first conference crown. Tufts has appeared in three conference finals (2007, 2008 and 2012), but hasn’t been able to attain some hardware. Against the Bantams of Trinity, the Jumbos used a second half surge to earn a 57-47 victory. Tufts’ Hayley Kanner led all players with 19 points, while Michela North chipped in 10 points off the bench. Amherst trailed Bowdoin, 20-16, at intermission, but outscored the Polar Bears during the final 20 minutes, 29-22. Ali Doswell, who led Amherst and all scorers with 15 points, secured the win for the Lord Jeffs by sinking one of two free throws during the final seconds. Amherst and Tufts met in Medford a few weeks ago with the Jumbos prevailing, 63-56. Amherst hadn’t lost until that particular contest. The Jumbos have won 25 of 26 contests this season, their only blemish occurred in a non-conference clash against Babson College on Tuesday, February 11.
Men’s NEWMAC Championship: No. 3 Springfield vs. No. 4 MIT @ Worcester, Mass. / 1 p.m.: MIT used an early second half run against host WPI to secure a spot in the title game, while Sean Martin‘s layup at the end of the second session provided a spark for Springfield to defeat Babson in overtime. Both teams split their season series, so the winner of today’s match will win the 2013-14 series. MIT received 14 points and 14 rebounds from Matt Redfield, along with 16 points from Justin Pedley. MIT recorded 28 defensive rebounds and eight caroms on the offensive end. Springfield sank a variety of important shots down the stretch against the Beavers, including a triple in the second half from Nick Sienkiewicz and trifecta in overtime from Nick McKenna. MIT is 5-4 since the first day of February, while Springfield is appearing in its third straight conference championship.
Women’s NEWMAC Championship: No. 1 Smith vs. No. 6 Springfield @ Northampton, Mass. / 1 p.m.: The Pioneers secured a spot in the championship by defeating the Beavers, a squad that’s 4-1 all-time against Smith in postseason play. Paulina Solis registered a team-high 17 points for Smith against Babson, while Mandy Castro added 14 points off the bench. The Pioneers have been to the tournament championship in prior seasons, but have never won a NEWMAC crown. Springfield earned a spot in the title game following back-to-back wins against Coast Guard and Wheaton. The Pride earned a two-point lead at the break before outscoring the Lyons in the second half, 43-30. Jamie Bickelhaupt paced Springfield with 20 points, while Emily Gins registered a game-best 12 boards. Springfield hasn’t won a tournament championship since 2006.