One missed Bulldog shot later, and Saunders was skipping through the lane, laying the rock into the hoop to give his team a 6-0 lead.
And so it continued.
Despite Sears scoring 28 of the Bulldogs’ 58 points, Yale found itself unable to stop either the Crimson’s penetration or its sharpshooting from deep, and Harvard’s first half run was capped off by consecutive three-pointers from co-captain Brandyn Curry.
Three players scored at least 14 points for the Crimson—with Chambers leading the pack at 17—while only Sears scored more than eight for Yale. The forward tallied 28 points and 13 rebounds, going 11-of-16 from the floor. It took over 10 minutes for a member of the Bulldogs not named Sears to put the ball in the hoop.
“[Sears is] as good as anyone in our conference,” Amaker said. “He’s an incredibly tough matchup for anyone and he has performed like that all season. We couldn’t stop him…. He’s one of the better big guys in the country that you could possibly have with his ability, athleticism, and skill level.”
“I’m not intelligent enough to give a good enough adjective [to describe Sears],” Yale coach James Jones added. “I am in awe of what he is able to do. I think [the rest of] our guys watch him too much because he is so dominant.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night occurred with 46 seconds to go. As Chambers sunk two from the charity stripe, the Crimson fans in the rafters began their “I Believe” victory chant. The Bulldogs took the ball down the court, and dished it to junior guard Javier Duren, who laid the shot up. Amidst the cheers, Casey swatted the ball away from the hoop and across the floor, straight to Saunders.
Two Harvard possessions later, the team became the first in the country to nab an invitation to March Madness.
“You couldn’t ask for a much better [end to the season],” Curry said. “The last time we were [in this gym] playing for a championship we lost, and it means a lot to come back after everything and win in this place.”
—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.