Eli guards Alex Gamboa ’05 and Edwin Draughan ’05 ended their careers at Yale much in the same way they began them — by lighting up the competition.
In their final two games at John J. Lee Amphitheater, Draughan and Gamboa led the Bulldogs (12-15, 7-7 Ivy) to victories over Cornell (13-14, 8-6), 79-63 March 4, and Columbia (12-15, 3-11), 81-68 March 5. Two days later, the Elis finished out the season on the road at Brown in a 75-65 loss to the Bears.
Draughan averaged over 20 points in the three games, finishing as the seventh-leading scorer in school history (1,413) and fifth all time in assists (339). Gamboa averaged 12 points per game and tallied nearly five assists per contest. The Eli captain finished sixth all time in school history in assists (338).
Yale ends the season in a three-way tie for third place in the Ivy League with Harvard (12-15, 7-7) and Dartmouth (10-17, 7-7). It is the Elis’ fifth consecutive season of a .500 or better conference record. Cornell finished a surprising second in the Ivy League behind the University of Pennsylvania (20-9, 13-1), whose sole conference loss came at the hands of the Elis, 78-60, Feb. 19.
Along with its third Ivy title in the last four seasons, Penn captured the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 13th-seeded Quakers lost in their first-round game to fourth-seeded Boston College, 85-65, March 17 in Chicago.
There was a time midway through the season when the Bulldogs seemed poised to make the Big Dance as Ivy League champs. The Elis won their fourth straight game with the 18-point drubbing of Penn at home. That victory vaulted the Elis into second place in the Ivy League and made them the only team with any real hope of catching the Quakers.
But two days later the sky-high Elis were stunned by Brown at home, 70-64, and went on a three-game slide, eliminating any hopes of an Ivy crown. The Elis lost handily at Harvard and then dropped a one-point heartbreaker at Dartmouth, 53-52, when Big Green guard Steve Callahan hit a desperation shot at the buzzer.
“We definitely thought we should have won out [after the victory over Penn],” forward Nick Holmes ’08 said. “The Harvard-Dartmouth weekend was probably the low point of the season. We definitely thought we could challenge Penn — we definitely thought we should have gotten second.”
Entering their final weekend at home, Draughan and Gamboa prepared to put on a show. Against Cornell, Draughan scored 14 points and Gamboa dished out six assists as the Elis cruised to a 16-point victory. One night later, Gamboa scored 20 points to go along with five assists and Draughan added 19 points, five rebounds and four assists as Yale came back from a six-point halftime deficit to defeat Columbia 81-68.
The Eli seniors, including forward Mark Lovett ’05 who has been out all season with a knee injury, were recognized in a pre-game ceremony at the game against the Lions. The team also remembered forward Josh Hill ’05, who was killed in an automobile accident last May.
“We flew his mother in from Las Vegas,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “There were some tears in some eyes, mine included–it was a very emotional thing for all involved. For Edwin and Alex, you just want to let them know how much you care and love and respect them over the four years.”
The following Tuesday, the Elis fell at Brown despite 22 points from Draughan and 11 from Gamboa. It was Yale’s sixth-straight loss to the Bears and sixth loss on the road in conference play this season. The Elis finished with an abysmal 1-6 road record versus a stellar 6-1 mark at home.
“To tell you the truth, I really don’t know why [we struggled on the road],” forward Sam Kaplan ’07 said. ” We just didn’t come out to play on the road.”
On March 10, Draughan was named first team All-Ivy, the first Yale player to earn the honor since Emerson Whitley in 1997-98. Eli center Dominick Martin ’06, who led the Bulldogs in rebounding (7.8 rpg) and field goal percentage (.533) received honorable mention recognition.
Draughan started all 113 games of his career and was only the third player in school history to lead the team in scoring all four years. This season, he was second in the league in scoring (15.8) and fourth in the league in assists per game (3.74).
But the Bulldogs will have to make due next year without Draughan and Gamboa. Jones said he is unsure about what to expect.
“We’re going to have to see who steps up for us next year,” Jones said. “I like the core group of kids we have coming back. I think we have a lot of work to do — there are a lot of unknowns about our team.”
The Elis will return Martin, along with starting forwards Casey Hughes ’07 and Kaplan. This year’s freshman class came on strong midway through the season, including next year’s probable starting point guard Eric Flato ’08. Flato averaged nearly six points per game while playing just 18 minutes per game.
The twin brothers from Kansas, Nick and Caleb Holmes ’08 will also compete for spots in the starting rotation. Jones is also excited about his four incoming freshmen: point guard Chris Andrews from Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, two guard Ed White from Los Angeles, forward Ross Morin from Cincinnati, and guard Travis Pinick from Orange County, Calif.