The women’s basketball team played some of their best basketball of the year, as the Bulldogs closed out their home season this past weekend.

On Friday night, the Elis (3-22, 2-10 Ivy) used an all-around team effort to beat Cornell (8-17, 5-7), 54-47, but could not hold on against Columbia (6-19, 2-10), losing a 59-57 heartbreaker. After the Elis played poorly in their last outings against the New York rivals, Yale head coach Chris Gobrecht said the Bulldogs were determined to improve their play and redeem themselves with strong efforts in both games.

“I think that was our worst weekend of the year,” Gobrecht said, referring to the brutal losses of Feb. 10-11. “We played much better this time around.”

The team’s increased level of intensity was evident from the very start of Friday’s game, as the Elis jumped out to an early 13-point lead on a 15-2 run. Unfortunately, Cornell steadily chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the Bulldogs with just under five minutes left in the half. The Big Red went on to take the lead, but an Erica Davis ’07 jumper in the closing moments of the half allowed the Elis to enter the break down by just two points, with the score at 32-30.

Cornell came out strong in the second half, extending its lead to six in the first few minutes. But the Bulldogs showed their home crowd that they would not go down without a fight on the last home weekend of the year. Captain Chinenye Okafor ’07, Sara McCollum ’08 and Davis all scored in the double digits, and the team took advantage of this balanced scoring attack to fight its way to its second Ivy League win of the year.

But despite another solid effort the following night, the Elis could not obtain the same end result again, losing to Columbia in the final seconds of Saturday’s contest. The game was close from the start, with four ties and six lead changes in the first half alone. McCollum grabbed 10 of her game-high 13 rebounds in the first stanza to help the Bulldogs earn a five-point lead just before halftime, but poor foul-shooting prevented the Elis from extending the lead any further.

Yale led most of the second half, feeding off Davis’ season-high 17 points. But Davis’ offensive production was not enough to keep the Lions at bay. With less than a minute left in the game, Columbia began its final push on a conventional three-point play from junior Megan Griffith. A late Bulldogs turnover allowed junior guard Shasta Henderson to sour the Elis’ season home finale, knocking in the game winning basket with just four seconds remaining.

“We played very well and fought hard on both nights,” guard Kaitlyn Lillemoe ’09 said. “For whatever reason, we just weren’t able to finish off Saturday’s game.”

This coming weekend, Yale will take to the road one more time to wrap up its regular season, playing Penn on Friday and Princeton on Saturday. But the team is not ready for the season to end just yet.

“We aren’t focusing on the season being over,” Ashley Easley ’09 said. “We’re still focusing on what we need to do to win this weekend.”

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