Amherst College women’s basketball falls in NCAA Div. 3 Women’s Final Four

  • Amherst's Dani Valdez (24) defends against Wisconsin-Whitewater's Maggie Trautsch (11) in the first half of Friday's NCAA Div. 3 women's semifinal in Pittsburgh. AMHERST COLLEGE ATHLETICS

  • Amherst's Dani Valdez dribbles into the lane against Wisconsin-Whitewater in the first half of Friday's NCAA Div. 3 women's semifinal in Pittsburgh. AMHERST COLLEGE ATHLETICS

  • Amherst's AnLing Vera directs traffic in the first half of the NCAA Div. 3 women's semifinal against Wisconsin-Whitewater on Friday in Pittsburgh. AMHERST COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/17/2022 9:11:16 PM
Modified: 3/17/2022 9:13:21 PM

PITTSBURGH — The Amherst College women’s basketball team threw everything it could at Wisconsin-Whitewater, but in the end fell just short in the NCAA Division III semifinal contest. 

The Mammoths dropped a 55-51 game to the Warhawks, the same team that knocked out Smith College in the Sweet 16, on Thursday evening. 

It looked like Amherst would replicate their most recent win against Trinity; late in the third, Reeya Patel went on a six-point run to close out the period, including a timely triple with 23 seconds to go that sparked the bench and gave the Mammoths a 44-41 lead and all the momentum heading into the final quarter. 

“We were excited. We won that quarter by five. We thought we were in pretty good shape. And then again, it was a couple 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that were the difference,” Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki said. “We rushed a few shots instead of pushing that lead up by a little bit more. Those shots didn’t fall, and then they capitalized on it.”

Rebekah Schumacher and Patel traded buckets to open the fourth quarter, and after a brief scoreless streak, the Warhawks went on the run that would ultimately win them the game. Maggie Trautsch hit a jumper to tie the game up at 46 all,  Aleah Grundahl splashed two free throws and then ran back for a layup 30 seconds later to give Wisconsin-Whitewater the 50-46 lead. During that run, Amhert senior Dani Valdez fouled out of the game with 5:02 left on the clock, a big loss for the Mammoths. Valdez finished the game with a team-leading 14 points. 

“Dani was on...(she) just got in foul trouble. And that, hat was a difference in the game too. Maybe Dani stays in and gets a few more baskets, that might have been the difference. I don’t know,” Gromacki said. “But Jade DuVal came in and did a great job for her and really battled on the boards. She finished with 10 rebounds.”

It looked like Amherst might pull back and tie things back up. Freshman AnLing Vera hit a free throw, and senior Lauren Pelosi nailed a timely jumper that made it 50-49 Whitewater with 2:24 remaining. But 23 seconds later, Yssa Sto. Domingo came in clutch for the Warhawks with a three. Gabrielle Zaffiro pulled back within two with 46 seconds to go, but Whitewater’s Kacie Carollo sank two shots from the charity stripe with three seconds left to put the game out of reach for the Mammoths.

“They came out strong. They brought the intensity the entire game. For this entire tournament, we’ve been able to make runs and they stopped us,” Vera said. “They capitalized in the end where they needed to.”

This was a game that either team could have walked away from victorious. The Mammoths held a 17-15 lead after the first quarter, shooting a solid 43.75 percent from the floor; eight of those 17 points came from Valdez, who was dominant in the paint all evening. 

Both teams struggled in the second quarter, though the Mammoths had the worse luck offensively. The Warhawks held Amherst to just eight points in the second, while they clawed back to take a 27-25 lead heading into halftime. After Whitewater retook the lead in the second quarter, the Mammoths weren’t able to regain the lead until midway through the third quarter. Courtney Resch sank a triple to make it 34-33 Amherst, bringing the Mammoths back within striking distance and setting up the score for Patel’s run later that quarter. 

Gromacki talked more in this post-game press conference than he has all year, perhaps to prolong his team’s playoff experience as much as he could.

“This was just an unbelievable experience. They made me love coaching,” Gromacki said about his team. “I told them in the locker room I wish I could coach them one more game.”

“Amherst is a really special place. I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten the opportunity to go here for the past four years and play with this program,” Resch said. “I think this year, we were special in the way that we were able to come together and really support and love each other from the beginning of the season...this group is probably the one that I felt has been the closest in my time here. I think that’s really special, and it’s something that I’m really proud to have been a part of.”

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