Harvard officially clinched the Ivy title Friday night when Penn closed out an 82-58 thrashing of second-place Brown about an hour after the Crimson’s 61-47 win over Cornell. But there was no crowd present to honor the achievement. The Lavietes bleachers had long been tucked away.
“I know we kind of felt like we got robbed of winning it ourselves,” said junior forward Tricia Tubridy. “We can’t blame Brown or Penn, but we were hoping to have it in our own hands. We wanted to win it on a win instead of by default.”
A crowd of 1,207 showed up for Harvard’s coronation following the Columbia game Saturday night, which would happen regardless of the outcome of the game.
The Crimson ended up defeating the Lions 78-74, but not before receiving its biggest scare of the Ivy season. Columbia led for almost the entire game, matching its largest lead of 13 points with just over 10 minutes left.
“We got in our own heads, saying, ‘Make sure you get up for the game, make sure you get up for the game,’” Tubridy said. “It’s almost like we got too high up and we weren’t ready for the game.”
Harvard led for just 88 seconds all evening, but that stretch included the game’s last 58 seconds, which was all that mattered.
When the Crimson players finished shaking hands with the Lions, they hugged en masse in the tip-off circle.
“The closeness of the game made for a better climax at the end of it,” Tubridy said. “I don’t know when the last time we hugged each other after game was, because normally it’s in hand with two or three minutes left.”
Harvard was presented with the new Farquhar-Baker Ivy League Women’s Basketball Trophy, which had been donated to the league last year.
Following its traditional posing with the trophy, the team showed no mercy on the net. As the players and coaches cut the threads one-by-one, the loudest cheers from spectators came for captain Kate Ides, who was playing in her last home game, and Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. Delaney-Smith made the final cuts and raised the net triumphantly to celebrate her fifth title in eight seasons.
Delaney-Smith and Ides were also applauded prior to the game, when Ides was honored with a decorative array of flowers and balloons. The Class of 2003 had originally numbered four, but it dwindled each season until only Ides was left in the end.
Much has changed since Ides’ rookie year. After falling short of the Ivy title her freshman and sophomore years, the Crimson left little doubt it would be representing the league in the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
“I came in here as a freshmen always expecting this to be a program that would really compete and go to NCAAs,” Ides said. “As a high school player, that was one thing I was looking for. It has been incredible the last two years to have that opportunity.”
Having secured a spot in the Big Dance, the Crimson faces Brown and Yale Friday and Saturday with a chance to secure the third undefeated season in Ivy history. The games will also impact Harvard’s seeding in the NCAA tournament.
“I think these two games could possibly be the most important games of the season,” Tubridy said. “There’s not a title on the line or anything, but if we don’t finish strong, it’ll affect our chances in NCAAs. No one wants to finish on a bad note.”
Though the Crimson’s regular season ends on March 8, its NCAA opening-round game won’t be until March 22 or March 23. The seedings and early-round sites will be announced on March 16.
In past seasons, Harvard had typically scheduled a mid-week game with Dartmouth to close out the season, but the two teams instead played twice in January due to various conflicts. That change leaves the Crimson with extra time to recuperate before the tournament.
“We did not like that, but as it turns out we love that,” Delaney-Smith said of the scheduling change. “I will give them time off after Brown and Yale, and then we’ll regroup.”
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.