No. 4 Tufts Overpowers No. 6 WashU 57-43 in Elite 8

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PHOTO | PRESS CONFERENCE

St. Louis, Mo., March 11, 2017 – The No. 6-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's basketball team had its season come to an end with a 57-43 loss to No. 4 Tufts University in the 2017 NCAA Division III Sectional Championship Saturday at the WU Field House in St. Louis.

Tufts improved its overall record to 29-2 and advanced to the Final Four for the fourth-straight season, while WashU had its season come to an end with a 26-3 mark. Tufts takes on No. 2 St. Thomas in the NCAA Division III Semifinal Friday, March 17, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"This game is the hardest to win and the hardest to lose," said WashU head coach Nancy Fahey. "I could not be more proud of what these seniors accomplished. All four are very special to me."

Tufts led 10-7 after the first media timeout in the first quarter as Michela North had six points and fourth boards for the Jumbos. Two-free-throws by Erica DeCandido pushed the advantage to 12-7 as WashU started the game 3-for-11.

A three-point play by sophomore Stephanie Botkin trimmed the advantage to 12-10, and then a jumper at the buzzer by junior Natalie Orr cut the lead to 14-12. WashU shot 5-of-17 from the field in the first quarter.

The two teams combined for just 11 points and 5-of-26 shooting in the second quarter. Buckets by sophomore Claudia Smith and senior Zoe Vernon gave the Bears their final lead of the game at 18-17, but a lay-up Lauren Dillon with seven seconds to go gave Tufts the 19-18 halftime advantage.

WashU shot 26.7 percent (8-30) from the field in the first half, including 0-for-5 from three-point range. The Bears limited Tufts to 28.0 percent (7-25) from the field.

Melissa Baptista scored six of the first eight points for Tufts in the third quarter to build a 27-21 lead, and then extended the advantage to 31-23 after a jumper by North.

Vernon nailed the Bears' first three of the game with 4:07 left in the third to cut the lead to 35-26, but Tufts took a double-digit lead after three quarters (41-30). The Jumbos shot 50 percent (7-14) from the field in the third quarter.

Tufts hit back-to-back threes to start the fourth quarter to take a commanding 47-30 advantage.

Vernon led the Bears with 10 points on a pair of three-pointers, while senior Lilly Sarros added seven points and eight rebounds (seven offensive). WashU shot a 30.5 percent (18-59) from the field and hit just 2-of-13 from three-point range. The Bears were outrebounded 46-36.

The Class of 2017 – Jenn DynisEreka Hunt, Sarros and Vernon – finished with a 98-15 (.867) overall record and won four University Athletic Association (UAA) titles and made two Elite 8 appearances.

"Its meant so much to me to be apart of this tradition and I have learned so much from Coach Fahey," Sarros added.

North recorded the 43rd double-double of her career with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Baptista added 14 second-half points and Jacqueline Knapp had 10. Tufts shot 35.8 percent (19-53) from the field and committed 13 turnovers. 

BEAR NOTEBOOK: The two teams met for the first time in school history … Fahey is 10-3 in NCAA Quarterfinal games in her career … The Bears finished the season 15-1 at home … WashU was 6-2 against ranked teams.