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After the final buzzer went off Friday night, only one women’s basketball team remained at the top of the Ivy League: Harvard.
Following Crimson sophomore Victoria Lippert’s three-pointer from the top of the arc—which had turned a one-point deficit into a two-point lead—a crowded Lavietes Pavilion witnessed her teammate Christine Clark drain a closely defended jumper with only 45 seconds left, giving Harvard a four-point advantage from which Princeton (14-4, 3-1 Ivy) never recovered.
Up to that point, a 9-0 Tiger run late in the second period had allowed the visitors to tie and surpass its hosts, but the Harvard women’s basketball team (12-6, 4-0) came up with the critical shots to prevail in the end, 73-67.
“This win was really big,” Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “Princeton has been a really dominant team, not only in the Ivy League, but they have also done some really good stuff outside of the league...Harvard and Dartmouth have dominated [over the years], but now all of a sudden Princeton comes in.”
Clark finished as the top scorer of the night, posting 18 points to go along with five rebounds. Lippert was third on the team with 14 points and seven boards.
After the first half ended with Harvard on top, 35-25, the Tigers clawed their way back into the game, hitting tough shots from long distance to keep the score close.
Guard Laura Johnson was critical to the team’s efforts, scoring 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from downtown.
Junior point guard Brogan Berry, who scored 17 points on the night, was the glue that kept the team together down the stretch, setting up critical plays for her teammates and taking over when necessary.
With less than seven minutes to play and the shot clock winding down, Berry drove to the hoop, only to step back and sink a jumper to set the score at 57-50.
“We wanted to get Brogan on those isolations because she had been hitting them all game,” Clark said.
“If you’re blessed with someone who can take you off the dribble, that’s [the play] almost everybody [calls],” Delaney-Smith said of allowing Berry to take over the game.
Tiger guard Krystal Hill then scored on two consecutive possessions, draining a high-arcing three and then coming up with a steal leading to a fast-break layup. Berry tried to go strong to the hoop again but couldn’t get her shot off, and Princeton’s Devona Allgood made an inside shot on the ensuing possession to tie the score at 57.
It was then Harvard’s turn to respond. Berry ran along the baseline and found forward Miriam Rutzen, who caught the pass and quickly banked in a shot. The sophomore had nine points and five rebounds in 28 minutes of play.
The Tigers responded quickly, as junior guard Lauren Edwards sank a trey to give the Tigers their first lead of the game, 60-59. Edwards finished the game with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting.
Senior Emma Markley, who totaled nine points, tried to score on the other end, but the ball rolled in and out, allowing Princeton to come back for more.
Allgood was fouled, and though she missed the front end of the one-and-one, Edwards caught the rebound and was fouled on her way up to the basket. The junior made both her shots from the charity stripe to set a three-point lead, 62-59.
Cue Clark, the rookie who had drained the game-winning shot at Columbia last weekend. The guard showed no fear as she drove to the hoop and then let a shot fly while fading away. A fanatic crowd cheered as the ball dropped through the net, cutting the deficit to just one point.
“Christine is one heck of a player,” Delaney-Smith said. “She has never really played like a freshman. She does make mistakes because she doesn’t have college experience, but she makes up for them two-fold—no, 10-fold.”
Princeton wasted two possessions to add to its lead, and the Crimson made its Ivy rival pay. With 1:34 left to play, Lippert got the crowd on its feet as she caught the pass for an open three, which she coolly drained to make the score 64-62.
“Fabulous,” Delaney-Smith said. “She’s made out of the same mold [as Berry and Clark]. She wants the ball; she wants the shot. She’s ice.”
After Clark’s jumper made it a four-point game, Harvard controlled the outcome by playing strong defense and hitting its free throws. The Crimson hit 18-of-21 free throws, with Clark making all eight of her attempts—four of which came in the contest’s final 11 seconds.
“We just needed to keep our composure the entire game,” Berry said. “We knew it was going to come down to defense and rebounding the entire time, so we just tried to keep our focus on those things.”
After having lost both games of the season series against the Tigers last year, Harvard defeated Princeton for the first time in two years in a matchup that had been spotlighted by ESPN.
The Crimson showed how much the win meant emotionally—not to mention to its Ivy title aspirations—celebrating at midcourt after the game’s final seconds had ticked away.
—Staff writer Brian A. Campos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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