UW-Whitewater women advance
HOLLAND, Mich. Mary Merg launched the UW-Whitewater women’s basketball team to its first NCAA Division III title game with two stunning buzzer-beaters.
The last one—a 12-foot runner from the Warhawks guard after a full-court dash—leveled sixth-ranked Amherst (Mass.) College with a 64-62 overtime loss in the national semifinals.
“It’s kind of like a blur to me,” Merg said of her March Madness-worthy performance. “Words can’t describe the feeling.”
The 22nd-ranked Warhawks (26-6) advanced to tonight’s 6 p.m. title game against top-ranked and unbeaten DePauw (Ind.) University at Hope College. DePauw (33-0) beat Williams (Mass.) College, 59-56, in Friday’s second semifinal.
Merg, who finished with 18 points, ended the game in front of a DeVos Fieldhouse crowd of 1,111 with a 12-foot runner in the lane as time expired.
The junior guard took the inbounds pass after Amherst freshman guard Cheyenne Pritchard’s jumper tied the score at 62-62 with six seconds remaining. Merg dribbled the entire way up court before shooting the game-winner against the nation’s eighth-stiffest scoring defense.
Merg forced an extra five minutes after regulation by sinking a 3-pointer in front of the Whitewater bench, tying the game 54-54. It was her third 3 in a span of 2 minutes, 17 seconds as the Warhawks overcame two 12-point deficits over the final 5:11 of the second half.
“Wow! What a game,” Whitewater coach Keri Carollo said after her team reached its first national title game in its second Final Four appearance. “I have to give all the credit to these girls for never giving up, always believing in themselves.
“It was an impressive performance against a very, very good Amherst team. They have a great program, phenomenal tradition. (Voigt) is a handful to slow her down.
“This is one of those games that could have gone either way. We ended up being the lucky one.”
Whitewater forward Cortney Kumerow led all scorers with 19 points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Teammate Lisa Palmer also posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
With Merg leading the charge, Whitewater outscored the Jeffs 24-10 over the final 7 minutes, 49 seconds, including overtime.
“It’s incredible what Mary can do in the last couple of seconds with the clock running down,” Kumerow said. “It doesn’t faze her. If she has the ball she can make it happen.”
Amherst (30-2) will play in Saturday’s 3 p.m. consolation game.
“I can’t describe all those shots that went in,” Amherst coach GP Gromacki said. “It was like a guardian angel steering those shots in. They made the big plays when they needed to, and you have to give them a lot of credit.”
Senior point guard Marcia Voigt led Amherst with 16 points and six assists. Whitewater limited Amherst to 34.3 percent field-goal shooting.
The Jeffs, making their fifth consecutive national semifinal appearance, fell to 0-3 in national semifinals at Hope and 1-4 all-time there.
Whitewater finished third at the 2008 Division III championship.
UW-WHITEWATER 64, AMHERST 62 (OT)
UW-Whitewater (64)—Theune, 1-0-3; Palmer, 4-2-10; Kumerow, 7-5-19; Thill, 0-6-6; Merg, 6-3-18; Reeves, 0-4-4; Mandrell, 1-2-4. Totals: 19-22-64.
Amherst (62)—Crowley, 3-0-6; Pritchard, 3-5-12; Robertson, 5-3-13; Voigt, 7-2-16; hardy, 6-0-15. Totals: 24-10-62.
UW-Whitewater 25 29 10—64
Amherst 24 30 8—62