While the Yale varsity men’s basketball team fights for another berth in March Madness, its club counterpart has begun postseason play in superb style, winning its regional tournament and advancing to the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association national championships.
Three years removed from their victory in the 2014 NIRSA national championship, the Bulldogs are once again on the march, winning all six of their contests last weekend in the Region I tournament at Boston University. Their overtime triumph over the University of New Hampshire earned the Elis a spot in the 2017 NIRSA national championships, which Ohio State will host in late April.
“To put it bluntly, we were hyped,” said Zach Danker-Feldman ’17, the team’s tournament MVP. “Winning a regional championship is incredible, but winning it by two points in OT is absolutely exhilarating. Speaking personally, that game could have been my final organized basketball game, but the guys played their hearts out. This run isn’t over by a long shot.”
Yale began its tournament in pool play, competing against Ithaca College, Providence College and Springfield College. The Bulldogs dominated the opening stage, felling all three of their opponents and outscoring them 176–120. That 56-point advantage was the third largest of any of the 20 teams that competed in pool play, surpassed only by Cornell and BU. However, as the Big Red beat the Terriers in group competition, Yale was able to capture the second seed in the knockout round.
In the quarterfinals, Yale matched up against Villanova, which eliminated the Bulldogs in the 2015 and 2016 regionals. However, the Wildcats were unable to complete the trifecta, as the superior Elis easily won and advanced to the semifinals.
There, they faced defending regional champions Boston College, who went 3–0 in pool play and eliminated BU in the quarterfinal round. Despite the challenge, tight play from the Bulldogs led to a two-point victory and a berth in the finals against UNH.
“For the games leading up to the final, we did a good job of finding the hot player and getting the ball in his hands,” Tyler Patterson ’20 said. “When our perimeter scorers weren’t hitting, we looked inside to our post players and vice versa.”
Prospects seemed dire at the start of the final game, as UNH raced to an 11–0 advantage. Nevertheless, after a timeout readjustment, the undeterred Bulldogs edged themselves back into contention on the back of a 25–12 run to end the first half. The contest remained close throughout, with a late three-pointer from UNH knotting the score and sending the game into overtime.
In postregulation play, Yale almost saw a two-point lead disappear until Chadd Cosse ’17 blocked a layup attempt to end the game and give Yale the title. Cosse was later named to the all-tournament team.
Regional title in hand, Yale has earned the right to travel to Ohio State for the NIRSA national championships. The Bulldogs will attempt to repeat their 2014 performance, when they beat California Polytechnic in the title game, 60–48.
Yet the team must first endure an agonizing two-month wait as the 10 other regional tournaments take place. Yale will not see action again until late April. That said, the players will look to savor every moment of their journey.
“The regional tournament definitely took a lot out of us physically, so we’re looking forward to rest during the time off but definitely itching to get back on the court,” Cosse said. “For the seniors especially, being a part of [Yale club basketball] is likely the last time we’ll play organized competitive basketball, so we definitely appreciate every game we play more and more and always look forward to competing as we count down the days to graduation.”
Yale men’s club basketball will return to action on April 21 in Columbus, Ohio.