The Yale women’s basketball team could not make it to the John J. Lee Amphitheater this past weekend. But after losing hard-fought games at Pennsylvania (9-6 , 3-0 Ivy) 59-57 Friday night and at Princeton (5-11, 2-1) 66-58 Saturday evening, the Eli women (3-14, 0-4) knew exactly how the men’s squad felt after its heartbreaking loss to Princeton Saturday.
Captain Brynn Gingras ’04 said she could empathize because sweeps over the weekend would have dramatically improved both teams’ respective positions in the Ivy League standings.
“We’re definitely both disappointed,” Gingras said. “If we swept this weekend, we would have been in a much better position [in the Ivy League] than we are now.”
A play-by-play of the women’s squad’s Friday night loss at the Palestra looks eerily similar to the men’s team’s triumph over the Quakers at the John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Trailing 59-57 with the game clock winding down, Yale guard Julie Cohen ’04 missed a 3-pointer that bounced off a Quaker player, giving the Elis the ball out of bounds with 4.6 seconds to go. Forward Christina Phillips ’04 received the ball on the low block and got off a tough look that just ricocheted off the rim. Julie Mantilla ’07 picked up the loose ball and was fouled as she threw up a buzzer-beating attempt, but the officials ruled that it came after time had expired.
“The controversy was whether she shot the ball before time ran out,” Gingras said. “It was pretty disheartening because if [the call had been made] we could have gone into overtime.”
The Bulldogs were down 36-26 at the break, but came back in the second half behind a stellar defensive performance. The Elis held Penn to 30.8 percent shooting from the field during the final 20 minutes of the game and slowly shaved down the Quaker edge to 51-49 with 6:37 remaining.
On the same evening that Matt Minoff ’04 shut down Quaker sharpshooter Jeff Schiffner in New Haven, Cohen put Jewel Clark on lockdown in Philadelphia. Cohen and the Bulldog defense held Clark, who entered the game averaging 20.7 points per game, to a season-low seven points.
“Any time [Clark] did get past me, I had our backline flooding everything she tried to shoot,” Cohen said.
Another factor on defense was Yale head coach Amy Backus’ decision to play her “twin towers,” 6-foot-3-inch Erica Davis ’07 and 6-foot-4-inch Julie Mantilla ’07, together down the stretch. The freshman frontcourt came up with a total eight blocks.
Yale’s most dramatic play on defense came on Pennsylvania’s last possession. With 22 seconds left, Mantilla rejected the Quakers’ final shot attempt. Mantilla’s fifth block of the game kept the Eli deficit at 59-57.
Although the next night’s game at Princeton was more closely-contested overall, it did not come down to another devastating finish.
Down 33-25 at the half, the Bulldogs took their only lead with 13:14 to go.
After going up 39-37, the Elis stayed in the game behind another determined defensive effort. The Bulldogs — owing in part to their depth — held the Tigers to 32.0 percent field-goal shooting.
Forward Chineye Okafor ’07 came off the bench for a career-high eight points on four-of-five shooting.
“[Okafor] stepped up, which is always great to see from a freshman who doesn’t always see playing time,” Gingras said. “She brought out an aggression in our team.”
Forward Morgan Richards ’05 scored all of her 11 points in the second half, hitting three-of-three from downtown.
But the difference came at the foul line. The Elis shot just four-of-10 in the second half, while Princeton was a solid 16-of-21. The Tigers made all six of their free throws in the last 28 seconds to ice the eight-point win.
“At this point, it’s really not good enough to play close,” Cohen said.
Like the Yale men’s team, the Bulldog women could not appreciate how close they came to a sweep of the Killer P’s.
“In our hearts we feel that we should have won those [games] — definitely,