BY SARAH SOMMER
MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Tufts is one of Division III’s top defensive teams, and the Jumbos looked like it early on against Albright on Friday. They had their hands on nearly every pass in the game’s opening minutes, getting deflections and steals and controlling the game’s tempo.
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But it was Albright’s defense that proved tougher as the Lions upset No. 1 Tufts, 62-59.
“We know they can make the open shot, we know they can make the open 3 and the layup,” Albright head coach Janice Luck told The Summitt. “We just wanted them to make the fadeaway, the reverse, make the tough shots.”
Albright used a zone press and outstanding post play to prevent Tufts from getting easy looks at the basket. The Lions finished with an impressive 14 blocks. Junior guard/forward MiKayla Lea made four of her game-high five blocks in the first half, keeping Albright within striking distance.
Senior guard/forward Alysha Lofton had four blocks, three of which came in the second half. Senior guard Nina Mazzarelli and freshman center/forward Allison Dienes had two blocks apiece, while sophomore guard Lauren Killion added one.
At halftime, the Jumbos led 34-24—just like the Lions wanted.
“Honestly, we wanted to just keep it within 10 was one of our goals,” Luck said. “Once we did that, I think the girls believed that we could maybe get it a little closer.”
Tufts led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but after a 16-4 Albright run, the teams entered the fourth tied at 46. The Jumbos and the Lions traded leads throughout the final 10 minutes. Lea’s layup with a minute remaining put Albright ahead 60-57, while free throws from senior guard Jane Joyce and Mazzarelli extended the lead to five points.
Freshman guard/forward Emily Briggs’ layup with 12.6 seconds left made the score 62-59. Tufts had a chance to tie the game on the final possession, but junior guard Jac Knapp’s three-point attempt was off target.
Albright benefited from not having to guard senior forward Melissa Baptista, Tufts’ All-American, for the entire game. Baptista played just 26 minutes due to foul trouble, eventually fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Still, the Lions made her work, holding her to 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
Albright improved to 7-4, while Tufts fell to 9-1.
“Obviously you always want to win a game, but they’re pretty deeply talented, and I wasn’t really sure that we’d be able to hang with them for 40 minutes,” Luck said. “But the girls did, so I’m proud of them.”