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Women's Basketball Falls to Georgetown in WNIT

Eyes Ahead
Junior guard Katie Benzan surveys the defense in the team's WNIT game against Georgetown.
Down three, with just under fifteen seconds left in the game clock, the ball was given to the team’s sharpshooter, junior guard Katie Benzan. She hoisted a triple, attempting to tie the game and preserve Harvard’s chance of extending their season. Unfortunately for the Crimson, Georgetown guard Dionna White blocked Benzan’s shot, effectively ending the team’s hopes of advancing to Round 3 of the WNIT.

This past Sunday, Harvard (17-14, 9-5 Ivy) saw an end to its WNIT run after losing to Georgetown (17-15, 9-9 BIG) in a tight contest at Lavietes Pavilion. The game was a tale of two halves for the Crimson.

After a dominant offensive start by the Hoyas, Harvard fell by double digits at the half. With a new defensive game plan and a switch to more inside scoring, the Crimson came back in the second half and took a one point lead before ultimately losing by a score of 70-65.

The game started with the Hoyas stifling the Harvard offense. The Crimson did not score for the first four minutes of the game and Georgetown jumped to a 6-0 lead. Inside scoring from junior forward Jeanne Boehm helped lead the Harvard offense early but the Hoyas’ jump shooting in the first quarter helped them jump out to a 16-11 lead.

“We played a jump defense the entire game, and leaving their shooters wide open was not the game plan,” Coach Delaney-Smith said. “There should have been a little better effort to get them out of their comfort zone.”

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Georgetown only had two players score in the first quarter; guards Dionna White and Nikola Kovacikova. White’s scoring would continue to trouble the Harvard defense throughout the game as she capitalized off turnovers and scored in transition.

“11 had quite a game for Georgetown,” Delaney- Smith said. “I don’t think we played 11 well in the first half. She went coast to coast, she picked out pocket. We weren’t taking her out of her zone and she’s an incredible player.”

In the second quarter, the Hoyas continued to get steals and take advantage of Crimson turnovers. Georgetown also took advantage of Harvard on the boards in the second quarter, getting second chance points off of their offensive rebounds. The Crimson was held to a 30% shooting clip at the end of the half.

“I think we started off not shooting well,” Boehm said. “We usually start out shooting from the arc pretty well and it didn’t turn out that way. Their athleticism and quickness bothered us a little bit and we had trouble connecting on some passes and were turning the ball over too much.”

Harvard’s shooting began to improve as the second period waned but the Hoyas always had an answer. The Crimson went into the half with a double-digit deficit, losing by a score of 37-26.

In the second half, Boehm’s inside presence and sophomore forward Jadyn Bush’s rebounding led the offensive charge for Harvard. Katie Benzan also had two triples in the quarter that helped swing the momentum and cut the deficit to single digits. The Crimson went into the final period down 53-47.

“What we did better in the second half than what we’ve done in a long time is actually read each other and have an inside,” Delaney-Smith said. “Jeannie decided to be the player we know she can be. We were moving the ball and got the shots we wanted.”

Inside scoring continued to be the key to Harvard’s comeback in the fourth quarter. Boehm had seven points and three rebounds in the period that allowed the Crimson deficit to decrease. With just under three minutes remaining, senior guard Madeline Raster weaved through the defense to give Harvard its first lead of the game.

“We noticed pretty early that the inside was open and the guards down the stretch did a great job of getting the ball inside, ” Boehm said. “The opportunities were there and we did a great job of taking advantage of that. “

In the final minutes of the game, the two teams increased their defensive intensity and Harvard maintained its one point lead. With thirty seconds remaining, Georgetown retook the lead off of a breakaway basket. They held the Crimson scoreless in the final seconds and made their free throws down the stretch to clinch the game 70-65.

This game was the seniors’ last of the season, and their leadership and experience were critical to Harvard’s success this season. Seniors Madeline Raster, Sydney Skinner, Nani Redford, and Kelsey Bogdan were all integral pieces whose legacies will endure and whose talents will be missed next season.

“They’re a real hard-working senior class,” Delaney-Smith said. “They came early, they stayed late, they worked on their game. It’s a class we’ll miss for sure.”

— Staff writer Mahtab Shihab can be reached at mahtab.shihab@thecrimson.com.

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