Tufts’ title pursuit starts on home turf
Upon examination, there are signs of sterling success for the women’s basketball team at Tufts.
The evidence: multiple 20-win seasons in recent years; regular NCAA Division 3 tournament appearances; consistency up and down the roster.
What is not visible, or listed, are recent NESCAC championship banners.
“It’s what we’ve been gearing up for since last year; it’s been an elusive thing,” said 12-year coach Carla Berube , whose team lost to Amherst in the NESCAC final during the 2011-2012 season and was a quarterfinalist last year.
“It’s something that means a lot to us. This is such a great conference; it’s so competitive. And we’ve been close.”
The 24-1 Jumbos, ranked sixth in Division 3, can take another step toward reversing recent history on the comfort of their own court Saturday. As the top seed in the NESCAC tourney, Tufts will host Trinity in a semifinal at 2 at Cousens Gym. Bowdoin takes on two-seed Amherst in the other semifinal at 4. The Jumbos rolled over Wesleyan in a quarterfinal on Saturday, 74-46.
Tufts’s dominant season, along with an on-campus matchup, are positive signs. But Berube is prepared for anything.
“It goes both ways,” Berube said. “We’ve already beaten them by 20 points (68-48, at home on Jan. 18), but I’m sure they’ll come fired up. Mid-January seems like a long time ago; they’re a different team and we’re a different team.”
Tufts is not different at point guard, though, where junior Kelsey Morehead has been a model of consistency. The 5-foot-2 California native has started all 25 games, handing out a team-leading 80 assists and averaging 7.3 points per game and a team-high 33.8 minutes per game.
“She’s someone that we know will always play at a high level,” Berube said. “She plays a ton of minutes and takes care of the ball so well. She’s our backbone; our heart and soul.”
Trinity is anchored by Hannah Brickley , a 5-foot-9 senior from Melrose who is averaging 14 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
“She’s just a great athlete,” Berube said. “She’s a tough matchup. We’ll throw different players at her, and they’re going to have to use their size and quickness.”
In the NESCAC quarters, Brickley registered 23 points and nine rebounds in a 79-76 win over Connecticut College. The Bantams, who have won six straight, won nine of 10 after a 1-4 start.
In the second half of the doubleheader, Amherst (23-2, 9-1 NESCAC) poses an intimidating presence for all, having most recently disposed of Hamilton (78-33) and Middlebury (79-41) in lopsided fashion. The Lord Jeffs are 9-1 in their last 10 games despite the absence of junior captain Meghan Robertson , a 5-foot-9 forward from Tewksbury (Phillips Andover) who was a preseason All-America choice. She suffered a knee injury three minutes into Amherst’s 63-56 win at Tufts on Jan. 17 and has not been in the lineup since.
Bowdoin (21-4) took care of Williams, 71-46, behind junior Sara Binkhorst (22 points, seven assists).
Salem State preps for MASCAC battle
In men’s basketball, Salem State finished the regular season Saturday with a 54-53 victory at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, capturing the MASCAC championship outright at 9-3 (16-8 overall). The sky is the limit for the Vikings as they host a semifinal MASCAC championship game Thursday at 7, taking on the winner of Tuesday night’s Westfield State-MCLA game.
Coach Chris Harvey said he knows that when his system’s motion offense is clicking, there is a lot of confidence on the court and in the huddle.
“If we shoot the ball well, I know it’s a cliché, but we’re a tough out,” Harvey said. “If we don’t shoot the ball well, we’re a very ordinary team. The ultimate prize is to win this tournament and get back to the NCAAs. We’ll take our chances.”
Andrew White , a senior guard from Medford, poured in a season-high 21 points and added five rebounds and three assists in a recent 80-68 win over Bridgewater State.Jeff Powalisz can be reached at email@example.com.