While the Princeton women’s basketball team did not get the win on Sunday, Nov. 19 — they lost to undefeated Georgia Tech 67-56 at Jadwin Gymnasium — many positive things stood out that show long term signs of success for the team. One of the biggest signs is the play of sophomore power forward Bella Alarie, who continued her hot start with her second straight double double. Building upon a tremendous rookie season last year, Alarie’s continued growth in all aspects of the game will pay dividends for the Tigers throughout this season and beyond.
Alarie had one of the best rookie seasons in memory for a Princeton player. It seemed that almost every week she was winning accolades from the Ivy League, whether it be rookie of the week or most valuable player of the week. In fact, Alarie broke almost every rookie school record that the University has, leading her to be named the Ivy League’s rookie of the year in 2017. Posting seven double doubles last season, Alarie boasts stat lines evocative of those of some of the great Tiger players over the last few decades, including some that are currently in the WNBA.
Alarie's impressive performance didn’t stop when the Tigers' season came to an end last year. Last summer, she was a part of USA Basketball and the U-19 squad that played in the FIBA World Cup. She started every game, averaged over 7 points and 8 rebounds for the team, and helped earn a silver medal for Team USA.
Now an Ivy Tournament Veteran and World Cup medalist, Alarie comes back looking to be a key playmaker for this Tiger team. Beyond just the stats that fill up the page, Alarie’s performance brings up the play of the entire team. Her playmaking abilities down low, her tireless work ethic to nab rebounds on both sides of the court, and her relentless defense all contribute to a Princeton squad that can beat you in so many ways.
Consider one scenario early in the Georgia Tech game; after a missed three by freshman Carlie Littlefield, Alarie went up high against multiple Yellow Jacket defenders, snagged the board, and passed it out to senior Kenya Holland, who immediately connected beyond the arc. Moments later, Alarie swiped the ball from a Yellow Jacket dribbler and started a fast break opportunity for Princeton, which was converted off the jumper by senior Tia Weledji. In one swift series of events, Alarie turned a missed shot into a 5-0 swing on the scoreboard.
It is because of plays like this that Alarie was named to the Katrina Mcclain Award watch list. The award — given to the best power forward in the NCAA — honors a player who not only contributes to her team individually, but brings about the best performance of her teammates as well. Alarie is one of 20 names on the nationwide watch list, and is the only player from the Ivy League on the list. With her fantastic start to the season, her early season odds for the award are sure to improve.
But beyond the individual accolades that she may receive, Alarie’s continuance of dominating play will be a huge boost for the Tigers this season as they look towards lofty goals. Sure, there will times where things aren’t going perfectly; every shooter sometimes gets into a funk or faces a matchup they just cannot get the best of. But it’s Alarie’s consistent sustained success that has many Tiger fans excited; in the last 18 games the Tigers have played, Alarie has scored double-digit points in 16 of them. While certainly a small sample size, if Alarie continues to play this season like she has in the first three games, the Tigers will be well on their way to a possible Ivy League title and NCAA berth.