The members of the Harvard women's basketball team lingered around the court a bit longer after Friday's game against Dartmouth than they normally do.
After customarily sprinting to the locker room after the final buzzer sounded, the Crimson players were back on the floor within minutes giving high fives to fans, getting hugs from roommates and signing autographs for little girls who probably go home, get out a basketball and practice the Jenn Monti crossover and the Laela Sturdy three-point shot in their driveways.
The players, still in their sweat-drenched jerseys, wore a look that was half elation and half disbelief. 2,035 people had been in the stands to see them play their best game of the season, a 73-67 win over their biggest Ivy nemesis that was shown nationwide on DirecTV and that turned out to be Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith's 150th Ivy win.
And these were not any 2,035 fans. These were 2,035 rabid, The-Game-like fans who turned out en masse to Lavietes Pavilion. And this was on the same night that 2,801 fans were in Bright Hockey Center for Harvard's 3-2 win over Yale. For those playing at home, that's almost 5,000 people across the Charles at one time for non-football athletic events.
Junior center Melissa Johnson was doing her best to top Roberto Benigni, hugging and laughing and absorbing every moment.
"Ohmygod. I've been waiting for this game for too long," said the North Carolina transfer, enjoying her first Ivy win. "I'm so happy right now. It was so exciting. The fans were the best. I love the fans, I love everybody."
Captain Laela Sturdy was just as ecstatic.
"This is such a great feeling," Sturdy said. "There is nothing better than the Ivy League starting. And there is nothing better than beating that team. This is what we run for in the summer. This is what we sweat for in the preseason."
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