Seventh-ranked Christopher Newport fell to top-ranked Amherst, 66-51, in the NCAA semifinals on Friday night in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Captains end their season with a 29-3 overall record, capping one of the finest years in program history.
Amherst (32-0) will take on Tufts (30-2) in the national championship game on Saturday. Tufts defeated previously-unbeaten St. Thomas (31-1) 60-57 in Friday's other semifinal.
CNU junior Sam Porter led the Captains with 16 points on 3-of-5 shooting, while adding an exceptional 10-for-10 performance from the free-throw line.
The top-ranked Amherst defense controlled the first half of action, holding the Captains to just 6-of-28 shooting from the floor (21.4%). The Captains would go on to win the third and fourth quarters, outscoring Amherst 35-31 in the second half. Porter scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half, and eight different players landed in the scoring column.
After Bailey Dufrene opened the game with a nice drive to the basket, Amherst answered with an 8-0 run over just 1:20 of game time to take the lead. From there, both offenses went cold against a pair of the nation's top defenses. A jumper by Zhara Tannor with 1:25 remaining in the first quarter cut the lead to four, 10-6, but the Purple & White scored five of the next seven points to carry a 15-8 lead into the second quarter.
A 20-8 second quarter proved to be the difference in the game, as Amherst pulled away from the Captains going into the locker room. Ali Doswell, named the WBCA National Player of the Year on Thursday night, led the way for the Purple & White, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half.
After Amherst opened a game-high 24-point lead in the second half, the Captains turned up the defensive pressure and started to cut into the lead. Switching personnel and defensive schemes as they have all season long, the Captains frustrated the Amherst offense to the tune of 19 turnovers in the game. It is the most turnovers by the Purple & White in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Leading the charge defensively for the Captains was junior Devon Byrd, who grabbed a game-high five steals. Byrd also finished with seven points and four rebounds, ranking second on the team in both categories.
In the fourth quarter, the Captains were able to employ all 15 players into game action, seeing a solid effort from the reserves down the stretch. Facing a 24-point deficit with 4:39 remaining, Christopher Newport would finish the game on a 12-3 run for the final score of 66-51.
The Captains finished the game shooting 34% (18-53), the second-highest mark allowed in the last 13 games, and matched Mary Washington's 51 points as the most allowed by the tough Amherst defense since giving up 62 at Chapman on December 28. The Purple & White were an efficient 51.1% (23-45) and the team's matched eachother in the rebound column, with 31 boards each.
The magical season comes to a close for the Captains with a 29-3 overall record with the program's second ever NCAA Tournament appearance. In five seasons under head coach Bill Broderick, the Captains have finished in the Sweet 16 twice, the Elite Eight once, and now once in the Final Four.