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Women's Hoops climbs Mammoth Mountain for 'W"

Women's Hoops climbs Mammoth Mountain for 'W"

Hannah Spaulding had 28 points and 18 rebounds and senior Lucia Renikoff had the defensive play of the game with a late block shot, rebound and two made free throws as No. 2-ranked St. Thomas held off No. 6-Amherst 61-58 in overtime in Friday night's Sweet 16 NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament game at Schoenecker Arena.

The Tommies (29-1) will face No. 10-ranked Wartburg Saturday at 7 p.m. here with the winner advancing to the March 15-16 Final Four in Salem, Va.

The Knights (27-3), ran their season win streak to 16 as they topped No. 13-ranked UW-Oshkosh 70-57 in Friday's first game. Wartburg handed visiting St. Thomas its lone loss, 60-40, 10 weeks ago in Waverly, Iowa.

There will be a new women's national champion as Amherst had won the last two Division III crowns, both times with 33-0 records.

Spaulding, who played 43 of 45 minutes, sank 10 of 12 shots and stayed No. 1 among all Division III women's players with a 69-percent season proficiency from the floor. She's averaging 26 points and 14.5 rebounds in her last four postseason games.

Coach Ruth Sinn's Tommies overcame a buzzer-beating 3-point basket to close regulation by Amherst's Cam Hendricks to send the game at 51-51 into overtime. That shot, one of just two makes for the Amherst junior forward in the game, came off a time out with 1.3 seconds left in regulation.

The Mammoths (25-4) nearly did it again at the conclusion down three as Courtney Resch's trey attempt from the top of the key went in and out to let the Tommies advance.

In overtime, Kaia Porter sank back-to-back treys to give St. Thomas a five-point lead. But Hannah Fox sank a triple with 30 seconds to go to cap a 6-0 run as Amherst went back ahead 58-57 with 30 seconds to play.

Spaulding made two free throws with 24 seconds left to let the Tommies regain the lead. With under 10 seconds left and Amherst looking to make a go-ahead basket, Renikoff blocked Hendricks' 3-point try and collected the rebound. She was later fouled with :07 to go. She sank both and the Toms survived another good Amherst attempt.

St. Thomas had made just 8-of-16 foul shots until Spaulding and Renikoff sank two each in the final 25 seconds of overtime.

The game had four ties and six lead changes over the third and fourth quarters and overtime. All but two points for each team came from starters. The Mammoths had 10 turnovers, St. Thomas had nine. Defense left its mark as Amherst shot just 33 percent from the floor, while the Toms finished at 40 percent.

Junior Madeline Eck had 26 points, 10 rebounds and four assists to lead Amherst.

Porter closed with 15 points. Renikoff had nine points, four assists and three steals in 39 minutes. Kaylie Brazil played 40 minutes and chipped in seven points and six assists. It was the Tommies' first overtime contest of the season.