GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With just over five minutes remaining in the first of two NCAA Division III semifinals Friday night at Calvin’s Van Noord Arena, Thomas More junior Sydney Moss, who is left-handed, drove to her right from the left elbow, spotted fellow junior Alexa Santamaria under the basket so, with her off hand, flipped a pass behind her head to her open teammate.
The Saints went on to defeat the Jumbos 62-52 to advance into Saturday’s scheduled 7:30 p.m. ET national championship game against either the Bruins of George Fox or the Montclair State Red Hawks, who met in Friday night’s second semifinal.
|2015 DIII WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Semifinal: Thomas More 62, Tufts 52Box|
|Hill: Year after injury, Moss leads Thomas More to final|
|Hill: Something has to give at semifinals|
|Bracket: Interactive PDF|
Friday night’s victory (30-2) helped the Saints (32-0) forget a rather difficult anniversary. A year ago Friday, Thomas More’s 2014 season ended in the quarterfinals — and Moss tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. “I had surgery and I was ready to come back when we started practice in October,” said Moss, who bears a black brace on that knee. “I’m not 100 percent though, I’d say more about 85. I’m still a little slow,” she said with a sly grin. “It’s still hard to move side to side sometimes; I have to slide my feet.”
Moss may shoot a basketball left-handed, and she writes left-handed, but she bowls right-handed and eats with either hand. In fact, throughout much of elementary school she considered herself right-handed. The change, she said Friday night, came at, of all places, a softball field. “I was playing softball on a travel team and I was playing the outfield but I could hardly throw the ball back to the infield,” she recalled. “Sometimes I would catch the ball and then take my glove off and throw it left-handed, so my coach suggested that I just start throwing left-handed all the time.”
Moss doesn’t play much softball anymore, but her dexterity has helped her become the best NCAA III player in the nation. A year ago, she received all three National Player of the Year awards. A native of St. Albans, West Virginia, who went to high school in northern Kentucky, transferred to Thomas More after spending her freshman season at Florida. “I didn’t want to sit out a year and I had heard good things about Thomas More and the basketball program there,” Moss said. “It was close to home and to family too, which was important.”
While she is majoring in communications, Moss hopes her first career will be as a professional basketball player. “I hope to go on to the next level either overseas or in the WNBA,” Moss said. “After that I would like to coach, but if I get the opportunity to play professionally, I think it would be fun.”
Moss finished Friday’s semifinal with a game-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. “There is a lot of heart and dedication on this team,” she said. “We don’t like to lose. Losing in the elite eight last year was a lot of motivation for us because I think we realized we could win it.”