Coming into this weekend, the Princeton women's basketball team knew that they were guaranteed an invitation to the inaugural Ivy League tournament. What they didn’t know, however, was if they would be there defending a regular season title, or just looking to turn a second or third place finish into a spot in the Big Dance this March. Ultimately, Princeton locked itself into second place in the Ivy League after Saturday’s result and will represent the No. 2 seed in this weekend’s tournament.
The Tigers could have finished as high as first, or as low as third, in the final Ivy League standings, depending on how they and Penn played. On Friday, Princeton defeated Harvard to secure at least the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Then, the Tigers were defeated at Dartmouth on Saturday, which solidified their second place finish and gave the regular season crown to Penn.
Both games this weekend were thrilling to watch and set the stage for what could be an unbelievably entertaining tournament in Philly. Princeton’s game against Harvard featured a barrage of offensive firepower by the Tigers early and finished with the team holding off a ferocious Crimson comeback. Up 24-9 early, the Tigers kept their foot on the gas pedal and were able to stop everything Harvard threw their way. Three Tigers scored in double digits, the defense once again out-rebounded the opponent, and Princeton swept Harvard for the first time since their undefeated regular season, winning 64-60.
On Saturday, the roles were reversed, as the Tigers had to overcome a massive deficit with a huge comeback of their own. Rattled by a 16-4 Dartmouth run, the Tigers were staring at the 18-point hole they would have to overcome in the final quarter and a half. Princeton quickly went on a 13-4 run of its own fought hard to get back into the game. Despite forcing a season-best 25 turnovers and winning the rebound battle once again, the Tigers' efforts fell just short in a 58-54 loss.
The standout player from this weekend’s games was freshman Bella Alarie. Alarie, who has been a standout player for the Tigers all season, scored 16 points, 9 rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the win against Harvard. During the Dartmouth game, Alarie scored her team-high sixth double-double of the season, with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Alarie has been putting up these kinds of numbers all season with the Tigers and figures to be a huge part of their team in the tournament run and in seasons to come.
Alarie leads a core group of freshmen that have played some valuable minutes throughout the season. While their numbers may not be huge, the experience they are getting is crucial for them as they get ready to take over the team in the upcoming seasons.
But for now, we will get to see a first-time experience for all players on the Princeton team. From senior captain to first year player, no one has experienced the uncertainty of a postseason Ivy League tournament. The Tigers will use Tuesday’s regular season finale against Penn to get a feel for the court they will be playing on and to have one final shot at in-game practice. Oh, and getting a chance to down Penn is also pretty good motivation.
These final games will be unpredictable, wild, and perhaps unforgettable. We will all be witnessing history this Saturday when four teams fight to either keep their season alive, or to be sent home for good. This all comes following a rivalry game with the league’s top two teams, each of which could meet the other on championship Sunday. Fasten your seat belts, because things are about to get crazy.