Sophomore guard Ali Doswell did not start Amherst’s NCAA Tournament game against Eastern on Friday. But she started the following night, when Amherst faced NYU in the second round.
Doswell scored only five points on Friday, while the player she replaced in the starting five — junior guard Cheyenne Pritchard — scored 10.
“Do you really want to know?” Amherst head coach G.P. Gromacki asked at his team’s postgame news conference on Saturday.
After a reporter nodded, Gromacki explained.
“It was a mistake by our assistant coach,” he said. “They put her in the book by accident.”
“I mean, you’ve got to tell it like it is.”
And that’s how it was: The best player on the court wasn’t supposed to start. Doswell scored a game-high 22 points, making four of nine 3-pointers, to lead No. 12 Amherst (25-3) to a 70-47 win over No. 17 NYU. The Jeffs face Salisbury in the third round on March 13.
Not only did Doswell not expect to start — “I was shocked,” she said, laughing, in the news conference — but she also had little time to prepare.
“When they were announcing the starting lineup — ” Doswell said.
“We said, ‘Get in.’”
“He said, ‘Ali, you’re in there,’” Doswell said. “So I threw off my shooting shirt and ran out.”
Doswell played like she belonged — a less surprising development, given that she has made 26 starts this season and averages a team-high 12.1 points per game. With Amherst and NYU tied 8-8 in the first half, she made back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Jeffs a 14-8 lead. Those shots started a 17-0 Amherst run, during which Doswell also made a layup.
At halftime, the Jeffs held a 32-12 advantage. NYU made a few small runs in the second half, but Amherst kept the game out of reach.
Another key to Amherst’s success was senior forward Megan Robertson, who had five points during that 17-0 stretch and scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half. Robertson was Amherst’s 22-point scorer on Friday, meaning that the Jeffs had a player score more than 20 points in each of their first two tournament games.
“It shows how good these two are,” Gromacki said, referring to Doswell and Robertson, who sat to his left and right, respectively, after the game. “But it also shows we have a lot of different weapons.”
Doswell and Robertson downplayed their individual contributions — “It only matters that as a team we have more points than the other team at the end of the game,” Robertson said — while emphasizing Gromacki’s latter point.
“Today I stepped up,” Doswell said. “But then another game it might be someone else.”
It might be sophomore forward Meredith Doswell, Ali’s twin sister, who scored 13 points against NYU. Or it might be sophomore guard Hannah Peterson, who had 10 points against Eastern.
But on Saturday it was Ali Doswell, the starter who shouldn’t have been. Gromacki called his assistant’s gaffe “the best honest mistake.” Even before the game began, Gromacki had accepted the error.
“I wasn’t too upset,” he said. “Ali’s a great player.”