With 13:03 left in Friday night's battle against Penn for Ivy League supremacy, the Harvard women's basketball team appeared to be beaten.
Devastated by the loss of junior center Melissa Johnson right before the half and the unstoppable Penn transition offense early in the second half, the Crimson found itself buried in a 59-43 hole.
But in its most dramatic effort of the season, Harvard staged a furious rally led by the near-perfect shooting of captain Laela Sturdy and sophomore guard Jenn Monti. The comeback was completed when freshman guard Bree Kelley drained a clutch hook shot, her patented move, to give the Crimson a 74-73 lead with 1:41 remaining.
But the Quakers proved to have the upper hand in the end. Guard Mandy West hit a 3-pointer to give Penn the lead again. With 18.2 seconds and a 78-76 deficit, Harvard had a chance to win the game, but miscommunication and confusion on the final play forced Monti into a rushed, off-balance 3-point shot as time ran out.
Though the comeback was ostensibly wasted, it was key to Harvard's retention of the Ivy lead. Penn, completely drained by Friday's game, was beaten around in its Saturday night game at Dartmouth. That coupled with Harvard's strong 73-67 win over Princeton (4-17, 1-6 Ivy) the same night forced a three-way tie between the Big Green (14-6, 6-1), the Crimson (13-6, 6-1) and the Quakers (15-6, 6-1) atop the Ivy standings.
Harvard 73, Princeton 67
Harvard had to be careful to avoid a letdown after the heartbreaking loss from the night before. The Crimson knew that it could not take the struggling defending-Ivy champions lightly.
"We tried to start strong," Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. "I think every team is going to get up for us; that's a fact because we're Harvard and we win often."