Women's hoops season comes to a close in Elite Eight, 68-54, at Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Brandeis University senior Cassidy Dadaos (Healdsburg, Calif./Healdsburg) registered her second career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds and classmate Lauren Orlando (Peabody, Mass./Peabody) had a team-high 14 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome a pair of 20-point performances from the host Amherst College Lord Jeffs, as the Judges' season came to an end with a 68-54 loss in the Elite Eight. Brandeis's furthest foray into the NCAA tournament comes to an end with a record of 20-8, while Amherst improves to 29-2 and moves their first Final Four.

Brandeis was paced by their two senior forwards, who combined for 27 points and 16 rebounds. For the second night in a row, Dadaos turned in a heroic first half to keep the Judges in the game, as she hit 5-of-9 from the field with a free throw and pulled down nine boards, including four on the offensive glass. She finished with 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Orlando tied for the Judges' scoring lead in the second half with eight points, as she finished shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line. Junior Jessica Chapin (Mendon, N.Y./Honeoye Falls-Lima) finished the game five below her scoring average with nine points, eight coming in the second half after she was held to 0-for-6 from the floor in the first half with one free throw. Chapin also had seven rebounds and a team-high three assists, but the Judges had only four helpers on their 22 buckets for the game.

Dadaos and Orlando, along with classmates Amanda Wells (Loudon, N.H./Merrimack Valley) and Lauren Goyette (Dartmouth, Mass./Dartmouth) finish their careers with 79 victories, becoming the first Brandeis senior class in 10 years to reach four straight NCAA tournaments. They advanced further than any other women's team in school history.

Amherst was guided by rookie guard Shannon Finucane (Cortland, N.Y.), who scored a game-high for the second straight contest with 22 points, 13 coming after the intermission. Finucane connected on just 5-of-15 from the field, but hit a pair of 3-pointers and was a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, including six in the final 90 seconds to help ice the game. She also led all players with five assists. Sophomore forward Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, Conn.) added 21 points and six boards, while sophomore center Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, Ohio) had nine points, a team-high eight rebounds and a game-high three steals. The Lord Jeffs outscored Brandeis, 22-9, from the free throw line and 12-3 from beyond the arc, as they held the Judges to 1-11 shooting from downtown, matching their lowest output of the season, and 36.1% overall (22-61).

Brandeis scored the game's first basket as Dadaos put back her own miss, but Daigneault answered with a trifecta on the next trip and the Lord Jeffs never trailed again. The first key run of the game came midway through the first half. After Dadaos scored her seventh and eight points of the game to cut the deficit to 15-12 with 11:44 on the clock, the Lord Jeffs hit back-to-back 3-pointers by Courtney Long (Norwich, Conn.) and Finucane to push the lead to nine points, 21-12. The lead bounced between eight and 11 points before an Orlando buzzer-beating lay-up  made the score 31-22, Amherst, at the break.

In the second half, Brandeis scored six of the first nine points on a put-back from Dadaos, Chapin's first hoop of the contest and a Wells offensive rebound at the 15:00 minute mark that cut the lead to 34-28. Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki called a timeout at that point and the hosts responded with a 13-2 run that included six points by Daigneault. The Lord Jeffs hit 6-of-8 out of the timeout, with Fiuncane capping the run with a steal and lay-up that to give Amherst a 47-30 lead with 10:02 remaining. The Judges got as close as 11 the rest of the way, but the deficit was too large to overcome.

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