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Women's hoops stuns league-leading Dartmouth in final home game

Maybe it was the pregame presentation for the seniors. Maybe it was the frustration of having lost four straight to Dartmouth. Maybe things were different because it was the last home game of the season. Whatever the reason, there was something special in the air Saturday night in Jad-win.

Throughout this season, the women's basketball team has been waiting to show off the full extent of its ability.


Friday night, the Tigers (7-18 overall, 4-7 Ivy League) fell just short, but on Saturday — on Senior Night, of all nights — the wait ended.

The Tigers defeated Dartmouth, 64-51, in a game in which their ability to wait — patiently moving the ball on offense — propelled them to victory. The night before, Princeton fell to Harvard, 47-43.

"We were much more intense tonight," senior captain and forward Kate Thirolf said. "There's not much Dartmouth could do to stop us."

The Big Green (17-7, 9-2), which leads the league in scoring offense and defense in Ivy games, was outmatched by the Tigers on both ends of the court.

Princeton's meticulous offense frustrated Dartmouth's zone defense, waiting at times until the last possible moment to shoot. Four times in the second half, the Tigers converted field goals as the shot clock expired.

Two of those last-second field goals were long jumpers by sophomore guard Hillary Reser. Reser's emotional play carried the team, as she led all scorers with 18 points and snared seven rebounds. She also led the team with several inspired roars.


"[Reser] is a crazy spark plug for us," Thirolf said. "I'm really proud of her."

Last showing

In her last game on the floor of Jadwin, Thirolf herself gave a performance to be proud of. She scored 16 points, including back-to-back threes early in the second half that extended the Tigers' lead to seven points. Dartmouth would get no closer than five the rest of the way as Princeton shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half.

The game featured a stark contrast in offensive styles. Dartmouth is a high-scoring, fast-paced team, often shooting in the first 15 seconds of a possession. Led by the lethal shooting of senior guard Courtney Banghart, the Big Green kept the game close throughout the first half.

The Tigers slowed the game down in the second half, much to the consternation of Dartmouth. On the Big Green's few possessions, Princeton swamped the Dartmouth attack, often forcing errant shots.

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"Our team defense was great, no doubt about it," head coach Liz Feeley said. "We limited their shot attempts. We held them to 54 shots. That was key."

Princeton achieved its biggest lead, 14 points, with just over nine minutes remaining, following a rare five-point possession. Reser hit a long jump shot as a foul was called under the basket on Dartmouth's Katherine Hanks. The Tigers kept the ball and senior captain and guard Maggie Langlas subsequently drained a three. Princeton never looked back.

Langlas had a solid game on both ends of the floor. She scored nine points and dished out four assists offensively, while on defense she shadowed Dartmouth's best scorers. She grabbed several clutch rebounds and played all 40 minutes without leaving the game once.

Down to the wire

Friday night against Harvard (15-8, 8-3), Princeton managed to slow down a high-scoring opponent. Using a balanced attack, in which four starters scored at least eight points, the Tigers took a two-point lead in the final minute on a baseline drive by Langlas.

Princeton needed one defensive stop to seal its biggest win of the year. Instead, the ball ended up in the hands of Crimson guard Courtney Egelhoff, who launched a 20-foot three-pointer that found the bottom of the net.

The Tigers had two chances to score in the waning moments, but both slipped through their fingers.

Instead of disheartening the Tigers, the tough loss to the Crimson only strengthened their resolve for the following night.

The Dartmouth game featured everything you could want for Senior Night. Princeton, which had stumbled all season, produced one final stellar performance for the home crowd.

"We played defense like we never played defense before," senior center Brooke Lockwood said. "It was on our home court. It was Senior Night. It's always great to screw up the Ivy standings."

The seniors were vocal and emotional leaders, an up-and-coming sophomore was on fire from the floor, and the entire squad shut down the most powerful offense in the Ivy League.

There was an eye-moistening presentation before the game, a hard fought battle on the court and, in the end, jubilation.