BLOOMINGTON — Much like the game clock, Washington University’s offense had trouble starting Friday in the 29th annual NCAA Division III women’s basketball national semifinals at Shirk Center.
But once they started ticking, they successfully completed 40 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime as the No. 6-ranked Bears upset No. 1 Amherst, 86-75, in front of 1,700 fans.
When the west lights turned off in the second semifinal to cause a 19-minute delay, No. 4 Hope had things looking bleak for unranked Rochester. Hope later came out on the sunny side of a 76-65 decision.
It will take a whale of a glitch to prevent Washington (28-2) and Hope (32-1) from showing up for today’s 2 p.m. final. Wash U will be going for its fifth crown and Hope its third.
Rochester (23-7) and Amherst (31-1) tangle for third at 11 a.m.
Zoe Unruh, Jaimie McFarlin and Kathryn Berger each scored 19 points for the Bears, but no basket seemed bigger than Unruh’s 3-pointer 18 seconds into overtime.
“I thought that was a big shot to start the overtime,” said Bears coach Nancy Fahey of a hoop that ignited a 12-0 run to open overtime.
“There were a couple of big screens to get me open there,” said Unruh, who finished 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
St. Louis-based Wash U fell behind 10-0 and was still down nine when it launched a 15-6 surge to tie it at 58-58 with 4:36 left.
“Amherst played great defense,” Fahey said. “It was a physical game. They played hard.”
The Bears could hardly get off a shot as six were blocked as they fell behind 28-18 at intermission. Amherst finished with eight blocks, the second most of any Wash U foe this season.
Sarah Lehman had five of those blocks and she also tallied 16 points and 12 boards for Massachusetts-based Amherst. Caroline Stedman added 15 points while Lem Atanga McCormick had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just came up a little short,” said Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki, whose team had won its previous 31 games by an average of 27.1 points.
Amherst made three stops in the final 30 seconds of regulation, but also saw Stedman, a .786 free throw shooter, miss two freebies at the :26.4 mark and regulation ended in a 64-64 tie.
In overtime, the Lord Jeffs missed their first six shots.
“I think we got a little worn down to tell you the truth,” Gromacki said. “They made some big shots and put some pressure on us.”
Hope, out of Holland, Mich., received 19 points, nine boards and three blocks from 6-foot-3 Division III national player of the year Carrie Snikkers.
“We haven’t played someone like Snikkers all year,” said Rochester coach G.P. Gromacki. “I really give credit to my team. I thought we battled as hard as we could.”
Hope freshmen Meredith Kussmaul and Liz Ellis added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
“I was very pleased with our balance tonight,” said Hope coach Brian Morehouse. “I didn’t think it was all about Carrie.”
Despite trailing 40-30 at halftime, Rochester wasn’t about to fold if Melissa Alwardt could help it. She finished with 22 points while Amy Woods added 12 and Jodie Luther 10.
Rochester made a 16-7 run in the second half to get within 49-46 with 13:10 left, but could get no closer.
“I thought it was a good basketball game,” Gromacki said. “I think the big difference was Hope had a little more height and a little more strength on us.”
Snikkers was impressed by Rochester.
“Rochester’s posts were definitely the strongest posts we’ve played against this year,” she said.