By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)
The ‘Round of 16’ and ‘Round of eight’ concluded this past weekend with some exciting outcomes.
But now, we move onto the so-called, ‘Final Four’ where we’ll see a pair of Massachusetts squads competing in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division III semifinals, beginning this Friday, March 17th. The national championship games will take place on Saturday, March 18th.
The men’s NCAA Division III semifinals and finals will take place in Salem, Virginia, while the women’s semifinals and finals will occur in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Babson College and Williams College advanced to this Friday’s men’s semifinals with convincing wins over Keene State and Middlebury College, respectively. Amherst College and Tufts University returned to the women’s semifinals for the second-straight season – it is possible we could see both New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) units compete in the national championship.
Saturday’s 102-79 win over Keene State provided Babson with its second trip to the semifinals in three seasons. Joey Flannery poured in a game-high 29 points, while Charlie Rice netted a career-high 20 points – he also pulled down nine rebounds, including eight defensive caroms.
The Beavers led the Owls, 51-46, at the break, but came out firing in the opening minutes of the second half, thanks to a trio of three-pointers from Nick Comenale, who ended the game with 17 points.
Babson, which is currently ranked third in the country, according to the latest D3Hoops.com rankings, will face No. 1 Whitman College – the Blues will enter this week’s semifinal clash with an impressive 31-0 record. The Blues advanced to this year’s semifinals with a sectional final win over No. 13 Rochester (91-87).
Williams avenged its NESCAC Championship loss by defeating No. 6 Middlebury College by a score of 79-75. Daniel Aronowitz concluded the game with a double-double, netting 10 points, while pulling down 12 rebounds. He said following his team’s sectional final victory that it is a ‘amazing feeling’ to return to Salem, Virginia.
“I am just really happy to be going back to Salem,” Aronwitz said following his team’s four-point win over the Panthers. “Not everybody gets this opportunity, so we’re certainly go to take advantage of it, just really happy to be here.”
The Ephs led the Panthers, 39-37, at the break before outscoring the hosts in the second stanza, 40-38. The Ephs collaborated for 10 of 14 free throws, while tallying 15 points on second chances. Middlebury won the battle of points off the turnover, scoring 25 compared to Williams, which tallied just six points.
Williams’ Bobby Casey provided a lift for the Purple and Yellow off the bench, tallying 12 points in 20 minutes, including four trifectas. He sank four of five attempts from beyond the arc.
“It was just a hard-fought game,” said Williams men’s basketball coach Kevin App.
The Ephs will face Augustana, which secured a sectional final win over over Hanover, 77-64.
The No. 1 Amherst College women’s basketball team extended its season to the semifinal for the second-straight season, as the Purple and White defeated UMass Dartmouth, 73-33. Amherst will now face No. 10 Christopher Newport, which defeated Ohio Northern, 76-66.
Saturday’s sectional final win provided the Purple & White an opportunity to compete in the national semifinals for not just the second-straight season, but seventh time in program history.
As noted in last night’s release: “Amherst has now advanced to the national semifinals for the second time in a row, and seventh time in program history, including five straight appearances between 2009 and 2013, and highlighted by a national championship in 2011. The Purple & White enter semifinal action with a 37-11 overall record in NCAA postseason play.”
The No. 4 Tufts University women’s basketball team returned to the semifinals for the second-straight season, too, as they knocked-off No. 6Washington University (Mo.) last night, 57-43.
Michela North recorded her 14th career double-double in NCAA Tournament play with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Lauren Dillon led the Jumbos with a team-best seven assists.
Tufts secured an early lead, jumping out to a 14-12 advantage after the opening frame, but Washington University countered, outscoring the visitors, 6-5, in the second stanza to pull within one points (19-18) at the break.
Melissa Baptista and North helped the Jumbos push ahead for good in the second half, combining for seven points, which helped Tufts secure a 27-21 advantage. They would not look back, though, as they tallied 22 points in the frame before tacking on an additional 16 in the fourth.
Baptista finished with 14 points, while Jac Knapp added 10 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Tufts will take on No. 2 St. Thomas in the semifinals – the Tommies will enter the game riding a 31-game winning streak. They defeated No. 16 Whitman last night in their section, final by a score of 65-48.