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.
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.
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.
No. 6 Middlebury 89, Endicott 60: Matt St. Amour netted a team-high 21 points, while Jake Brown added 19 points and eight assists as the Panthers defeated the Gulls in Vermont en route to a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rematch with Williams in the sectional finals.
Williams 78, No. 17 Susquehanna 61: Kyle Scadlock powered the Ephs with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds as Williams secured a conference tournament final rematch with the Panthers on Saturday.
Keene State 68, No. 2 Christopher Newport 64: The Owls’ pursuit of some NCAA hardware continued Friday evening as they overcame an eight-point deficit at the break to defeat No. 2 Christopher Newport in Babson Park. Jeff Lunn led all players with 20 points, while pulling down eight rebounds.
No. 3 Babson 87, No. 14 Tufts 80: The Beavers overcame a one-point deficit at the break to defeat the Jumbos en route to their second sectional finals in three seasons. Babson’s Joey Flannery exploded for a game-high 38 points , while Isaiah Nelsen added 22 points on 10 of 16 attempts from the field.
No. 1 Amherst 63, Babson 39: Four members of the Purple & White’s starters tallied 11 points or more as top-ranked Amherst defeated Babson to advance to Saturday’s sectional finals. Emily McCarthy paced the Purple & White, connecting on 8 of 9 shots from the field for 21 points, including a pair of three-pointers.
UMass Dartmouth 67, SUNY New Paltz 57:Make it three-straight NCAA Tournament wins for Matt Ducharme‘s unit as the Corsairs advanced to their first-ever sectional finals. Alicia Kutil recorded 17 points and nine rebounds for UMass Dartmouth, while Rachel McCarron tallied 15 points.
No. 4 Tufts 65, No. 17 Scranton 48: Jac Knapp tallied a career-high 20 points, Michela North registered her 42nd double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Jumbos cruised past the Royals for the second straight season en route to the sectional finals.
The third round – or as some call it, ‘the sweet 16’ – is set to begin tomorrow as 32 NCAA Division III basketball teams (16 men’s and 16 women’s), including 10 New England squads, continue their quest toward the ultimate prize, a national championship.
At Babson College, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be in action tomorrow – it is the first-time in school history that both teams will be competing in the ‘sweet 16’ in the same season.
“It’s been a great environment, everybody has been rallying around the two teams,” said Babson women’s basketball coach Judy Blinstrub. “It is really a great atmosphere on campus right now.”
Added Babson men’s basketball coach Stephen Brennan, “I think there is a lot of good energy on campus. We’re really excited for the women’s team for winning the NEWMAC Championship, they have had such a good season.”
Last weekend, Blinstrub’s squad earned a pair of impressive wins, including a dramatic overtime victory over host FDU-Florham, which saw first-year Jacqueline Jozefick net the game-winning lay-up with five seconds remaining in the extra session.
The win over FDU-Florham earned the Beavers a date with Amherst College, which secured back-to-back wins last weekend over Mary Washington and Regis College.
Both Babson and Amherst competed against each other earlier this season with the Purple & White claiming a 67-62 victory.
“It was a great weekend for us,” said Blinstrub of her team’s first-and-second round wins. “I am just so happy for the team … this is a great situation to be in, playing in (the ‘sweet 16’) and I think they’ll rise to the occasion.”
As for Brennan’s unit, they earned two hard-fought wins last weekend, beginning with a 92-76 win over Husson University followed by a 72-65 victory against Skidmore College.
Against the Thoroughbreds, Babson senior Joey Flannery recorded a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds, while sinking the game’s final three free throws.
“I thought that down the stretch our defense, talk and toughness helped us overcome a slow start to the second half,” Brennan said of his team’s seven-point win over Skidmore.
Similar to the women’s team, the men’s team will meet a familiar foe on Friday, as Babson will welcome Tufts University to Babson Park with tip-off scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
The Jumbos, who earned a second meeting with the Beavers this season, scored a pair of first and second round wins last weekend, defeating Salem State University, 84-81, before knocking off host St. John Fisher, thanks to a game-high 37 points from junior Vincent Pace.
“We have a lot of familiarity (with the Jumbos),” said Brennan, “but it still comes down to how you’re going to play on Friday.”
A win for the Beavers would send them to the sectional finals – it would be the program’s second appearance in three seasons. They would face the winner of Christopher Newport-Keene State, which will play the first game at 5:00 p.m. – both sectional semifinals will take place at Babson.
Keene State, which earned a trip to the ‘big dance’ for the third consecutive season, claimed a pair of big wins last weekend, defeating Amherst, 69-66, before edging Ramapo, 92-91, in overtime. First-year Jake Collagan’s go-ahead triple with 48 seconds remaining in the additional frame helped the Owls secure the win.
Last season, Christopher Newport defeated Keene State in the ‘round of 16,’ thanks to team-high 22 points from current junior Marcus Carter. The Captains would win their following contest – an ‘elite eight’ victory over Wooster before concluding their season in the semifinals to the eventual champions, the University of St. Thomas.
In addition to a pair of men’s basketball games at Babson, Middlebury College will host a sectional semifinal against Endicott College – both teams met earlier this season with the Gulls claiming a 93-89 victory in Vermont. Williams College and Susquehanna University will also compete in Vermont – the winners of both games will square-off on Saturday in the sectional finals.
Middlebury, which captured its second-straight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship two weeks ago, scored a pair of back-to-back wins last weekend, defeating Farmingdale State (84-75) and Lycoming (95-76). Both wins occurred in Vermont.
The Gulls, who earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament, made history last weekend, knocking off both Salisbury University and Nichols College en route to the program’s initial ‘sweet 16’ appearance. Endicott senior Max Motroni led the Green and Blue with a game and season-high 34 points as the Gulls defeated the Bison, 111-75.
“We are just thrilled to still be playing and having another week together,” said Endicott men’s basketball coach Kevin Bettencourt.
A big reason Endicott has enjoyed an exciting tournament run thus far is because of the squad’s senior class – six student-athletes, to be exact. They were all sophomores when Bettencourt arrived on campus in August 2014, and have helped the Gulls take a step forward each season toward the program’s ultimate goal of a national championship.
“Our seniors just love playing basketball together,” said Bettencourt, “so it was really special to see it all come together as a whole last weekend.”
In addition to the seniors, a few New England coaches, including Nichols men’s basketball coach Tom Glynn, credit Endicott’s success to Bettencourt – they certainly know the impact he has made on the program.
“Kevin has elevated the program at Endicott and our league to new levels with his accomplishments since taking over the program in 2014,” said Glynn. “I have so much respect for him as a coach, and his teams are always difficult to prepare for, and his players represent his program with class, which is a testament to his leadership.”
Added Salem State coach Chris Harvey, “His teams play hard, are fundamentally sound and truly play for each other. Kevin is a great teacher of the game and allows his players to use their creativity as well, too.”
Switching to the women’s tournament, Tufts will look to continue their march toward a spot in next weekend’s semifinals when they face the University of Scranton on Friday with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
The contest between Tufts and Scranton will take place at Washington University.
Last season, the Jumbos defeated the Royals in the sectional finals, thanks to senior Michela North (13 points and 10 rebounds) and junior Melissa Baptista (23 points). Both players combined for 19 points and 20 rebounds in their second round clash last weekend with Husson as Tufts scored a 64-44 win in Medford.
Said North, “We had a battle against (Scranton) last year, so I’m really excited to play them again.”
A win for the Jumbos would set-up a sectional final against either host Washington University or Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Finally, one should not overlook the UMass Dartmouth women’s basketball team, which also made history last weekend, defeating La Roche and Montclair State to earn a trip to this weekend’s third round in Amherst.
Matt Ducharme’s Corsairs, who earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament, scored a pair of exciting wins, defeating La Roche and host Montclair State. UMass Dartmouth collaborated for 71 points in each game.
“It was a surreal moment at the time when we won our second round contest,” said Ducharme. “I just remember saying, ‘wow,’ and I don’t want this to stop.”
That euphoric feeling – or not wanting this exciting run to conclude – will be put to the test tomorrow when the Corsairs attempt to take another step forward toward next weekend’s semifinals.
Standing in their way: SUNY New Paltz, which captured back-to-back contests last weekend against Bowdoin College and Ithaca College.
Similar to the Corsairs, this will be the Hawks’ first-ever appearance in the ‘round of 16.’
A win for the Corsairs – or the Hawks – would set-up an exciting sectional final against either host Amherst or Babson. UMass Dartmouth played Babson earlier this season, defeating the Beavers, 70-62.
In their first round contest against La Roche, UMass Dartmouth struggled in the opening quarter – they trailed, 23-12. Yet, once the so-called ‘nerves’ disappeared, the Corsairs found their groove en route to an exciting 71-64 win.
The following evening against Montclair State, UMass Dartmouth raced out to a 10-point lead (23-13) – the game featured four lead changes and three ties – and kept the momentum heading into the final session.
Although, once Montclair State pulled within two-points (51-49) early in the fourth quarter, Ducharme called a timeout – he and the squad hoped the short breather would halt the Red Hawks’ comeback.
And it certainly did.
UMass Dartmouth responded with a 9-5 spurt, which helped the Corsairs eventually pull away and claim a 71-63 victory.
Said Ducharme of his team’s fourth quarter timeout, “I remember saying that no team is going to give you a shot at the ‘sweet 16,’ so if you want this game, then you have to take it and finish it … I was so proud of the way our team contained (Montclair State’s) runs down the stretch, too.”
Once the final horn sounded, UMass Dartmouth celebrated the exciting victory – again, no Corsairs squad has reached the ‘sweet 16’ in program history, so Ducharme, along with his players and assistant coach Jess Shiel know this run has been very exciting, but the focus must remain on their next opponent.
“There is no easy games at this point of the season and there is no looking to tomorrow,” said Shiel, “so you have to keep the focus on the next game.”
Middlebury College men’s basketball coach Jeff Brown didn’t need to share any inspirational words at the break.
Instead, the tenured coach, who displayed his ‘calm demeanor’ in the locker room, told his team what they needed to correct in the second half.
And those corrections were fixed rather quickly as the Panthers overcame a four-point deficit (40-36) by commencing the second session on a 16-0 run, which carried the Blue and White to an 84-62 victory over Williams College in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship on Sunday afternoon at Tufts University.
“We just told the guys exactly what we think and we just need to play better,” Brown said of his halftime talk with the Panthers.
“I told them it is really difficult to become champions, but we made it look pretty easy in the second half.”
Brown’s crew indeed made it look easy, especially when Matt St. Amour sank a few long-range three-pointers that helped the Panthers grow a lead the Ephs would not erase.
Not only did St. Amour sink back-to-back treys early in the frame, but added a layup and another triple minutes later to make it 57-43 with 12:39 remaining.
“My teammates kept telling me to be aggressive, play your game and (that) they had faith in me,” St. Amour said of his second half performance.
“They found me at such good sports and I started to get a couple to go.”
Middlebury’s second half run also featured baskets from Nick Tarantino, Adisa Majors, Eric McCord and Jack Daly.
In addition to an impressive second half surge, the Panthers also held the Ephs scoreless for 5:59. Williams would net its first second half basket with 14:01 remaining when Daniel Aronowitz sank one of two freebies.
Aronowitz’s lone free throw did not spark a second half rally – Williams did pull within 12 points (62-50) with 9:32 remaining, but that would be the closest they would get.
Middlebury would push ahead for good with back-to-back layups from Majors and McCord, who combined for 20 points.
“I think the big key was the start of the second half (when) we got multiple stops and that really helped us get some separation,” said Brown.
The Panthers recorded just five steals in the second half, but netted 20 of 36 field goals, including 6 of 17 from beyond the arc. They concluded the contest with 34 points in the paint, 17 second-chance points and 14 points off turnovers.
Sunday’s win erased the memory of an early season setback, which saw Williams outscore Middlebury, 50-28, in the second half en route to an 89-65 win.
Middlebury has not lost since falling to Williams on the road – they will enter the NCAA Tournament on an 11-game winning streak.
Said St. Amour of the Panthers’ 11-game winning streak, “Toughness is the biggest (reason) … we know we didn’t play the way we wanted to after (falling to Williams last month) and we didn’t want it to happen again.
“Every day, whether it is a practice or a game, we just want to come in, work hard and that really is what it is … this group is really close.”
St. Amour concluded the contest with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and one block, while Jake Brown registered 20 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Williams’ Kyle Scadlock recorded a game-high 24 points, while also pulling down 11 rebounds. Aronowitz record 14 points, three caroms, one steal and one block.
The Ephs, who have now fallen to Middlebury twice in the NESCAC Championship, will have to wait and see if they earn an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA Division III Tournament.
The NCAA Division III men’s basketball selection show is scheduled for Monday, February 27 at 12:30 p.m. eastern.
Said Williams Coach Kevin App, “I want it for the guys … this group has done enough to compete in the national tournament, so I hope we get the opportunity.”
If you’re not following the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament, then I suggest you do now!
Last night featured four dramatic games – one being decided in double-overtime (Bridgewater State-Westfield State), two contests saw both teams win their respective game by one point, while Worcester State shocked top-seed Fitchburg State, 71-68.
With four dramatic and exciting semifinals in the books, we now turn our attention to tomorrow’s championships, which promise to be even more exciting.
Yet, before we turn the page officially, let’s revisit all four contests, starting with Framingham State edging MCLA during the final seconds.
Framingham 60, MCLA 59: Following a steal by Framingham State’s Monta Connolly, the Rams called timeout with roughly 10 seconds remaining. After their short breather, the Rams, who trailed by two (59-57), needed a layup or jumper in the paint to send the contest to overtime. However, the Black and Gold did not want to advance to an extra session – they wanted to secure the win. And that they did as Raegan Mulherin sank the game-winning triple with two seconds remaining, which sent the Athletic and Recreation Center into celebration city.
Westfield State 97, Bridgewater State 95 (2OT): A late layup in the second overtime by Bridgewater State’s Sara DaSilva brought the visitors within two-points (97-95) with 40 seconds remaining. 33 seconds later, it appeared Westfield State had secured the win, but a missed layup allowed the Bears an opportunity to tie the game or score the game-winning trey. Unfortunately, the Red and White missed two field goals – a triple and layup – before Susan Bell snatched the game’s final carom, which secured the Owls a spot in Saturday’s title round. Westfield State’s Jill Valley paced all scorers with 39 points.
Worcester State 71, Fitchburg State 68: Since falling to Westfield State – their last regular season contest – something has clicked for Dave Lindberg‘s crew. The Lancers, who will be competing in their first MASCAC championship since 2006 (that season, they fell to Salem State in the title round) knocked-off top-seed Fitchburg State last night, thanks to monstrous performance from Paul Brooks, who recorded a double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds. Jeremy Bacon also recorded a double-double, finishing the contest with 11 points and 11 caroms. Ryan Dibernardo and Aaron Anniballi combined for three free throws down the stretch, which secured the exciting win for the Lancers.
Salem State 69, Bridgewater State 68: Sean Bryan netted the biggest trifecta of the season with six seconds remaining to lift second-seed Salem State past Bridgewater State by one-point. Bryan’s three-pointer capped an amazing second half, which saw the Vikings net 42 points in 20 minutes. Salem State trailed Bridgewater State, 30-27, at the break. The trifecta in the final seconds was Bryan’s lone basket of the contest. Marcus Faison led the Vikings with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Bridgewater State’s Fawaz Mass led all scorers with 22 points.