It may have been a season of ups and downs for the Harvard women’s basketball team, but it certainly ended on a high note.
The Crimson capped off a four-game win streak in its final contest of the season Saturday night as Harvard (14-14, 7-7 Ivy) defeated Brown (10-18, 4-10) by a score of 76-69.
The game had a much different ending than the last time the two teams faced off on Feb. 6. Then, the Bears defeated the Crimson, 83-80. Despite the additional 11 points, Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was very disappointed following that contest.
“We played our hearts out, but we played badly,” Delaney-Smith said after the first matchup.
But Saturday was a different story. After struggling to string together even two wins in a row all season, Harvard was able to move up to .500 on the year with four wins in two weeks, including two wins against teams that it had lost to the first time around.
“One of the words that I can use is fun. It was our last game, so we were really focused on bringing home a 'W' for our seniors,” sophomore forward Destiny Nunley said. “But I don’t think we’ve had that much fun on the court this whole season.”
It took a full team effort for the Crimson to defeat Brown on Saturday night, as nine out of 10 players who stepped onto the court scored in the contest. But it was perennial powerhouse Temi Fagbenle who led the team in the victory.
In her last game in a Harvard uniform, the senior forward continued the dominance she has exuded all season. The forward had 16 points and 18 rebounds in her 13th double-double of the season. It was the 22nd time the London, England, native scored in double figures this season as well. She finishes 15th on the Harvard all-time scoring list.
Fagbenle’s rebounding was key in the matchup as the Crimson scored 25 of its 76 points on second chances, compared to only 12 second-chance points for Brown. As a team, Harvard out-rebounded Brown, 52-37, a narrative the Crimson has seen all year. The women have had a height advantage over many of the teams they have faced this season, with the core group of Fagbenle, junior AnnMarie Healy, and senior Erin McDonnell controlling the paint with the help of Nunley and freshman center Anna Lachenauer off the bench.
“Brown really didn’t want us to score inside, so they would double us, triple us, whatever,” Fagbenle said. “So we really took whatever they gave us and made it our own game.”
Lachenauer was a defensive force in the contest, contributing six blocks in 12 minutes on the court. Her previous season-high was just three.
The first half was back and forth between the two teams, but the Bears pulled away as the clock wound down, heading into the locker room up by five.
But Harvard kept fighting. Though the team suffered a bit of a set back as Brown increased its lead to nine, the Crimson went on a 9-2 run to make it a one-possession game. A put-back from Fagbenle then put Harvard in front with 9:55 to go in the conest, giving her side a lead that the team would hold on to for the remainder of the game.
“[This game] means so, so much for the team and for the seniors," Fagbenle said. "We had a disappointing season in general and we didn’t ever think we would be able to be where we are right now. When it came down the stretch, we had to realign our goals…and take one game at a time for us to be able to pull out the four-game win streak at the end of the season…. We are very proud of ourselves and each other for fighting through to the end.”
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.
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