Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 10
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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>TOP OF THE HILL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Krystal Hill heads to the hoop last Saturday in Princeton’s 68-59 win over visiting Harvard. Senior guard Hill came up big in her final Jadwin Gym appearance, scoring 13 points with five rebounds and four steals as the Tigers clinched their second straight Ivy League title.

With Senior Hill Sparkling in Jadwin Gym Finale, PU Women’s Hoops Tops Harvard, Clinches Ivy Title

Bill Alden

Things haven’t come easy for Krystal Hill in her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

The 5’7 guard from Houston, Texas has battled for playing time off the bench, spending countless hours over the last four years honing her game to become a more complete player.

As Hill was introduced alongside classmate Addie Micir last Saturday during the Senior Night ceremonies before Princeton hosted Harvard in its final regular season home game, she reflected upon her journey.

“I have positive, happy memories here, all four years have been great and I have learned a lot,” said Hill.

“I really think I have gotten a lot better as a basketball player. That is all you can ask for when you sign up to be part of a program; to get better and learn and that is what I have done.”

Making just the second start of her career, an inspired Hill helped create another happy memory, sparking Princeton to a 68-59 win over the Crimson as the Tigers clinched their second straight Ivy League title to the delight of a Jadwin Gym throng of 2,105.

The Tigers, who improved to 23-4 overall and 12-1 in Ivy play with the triumph, were slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn on March 8 and then learn next Monday evening of their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

For Hill, getting the chance to play a major role in the clincher was sweet. “It is an honor to be out there,” said Hill, who made the most of her start, scoring 13 points with five rebounds and four steals in 39 minutes as the Tigers pulled away to the win, setting off a raucous post-game celebration with the presentation of the league trophy and the cutting down of the net on the basket near the Princeton bench.

“It definitely feels good, your last game at home, Senior Night, the largest crowd that I have ever played in front of at Jadwin. It is good to go out there and play well and get a win.”

It was good for Princeton to top rival Harvard, avenging a 73-67 loss in early February which marked the Tigers’ only league setback in its last 32 Ivy games.

“Harvard is usually a powerhouse and you always want to go out there and beat them,” said Hill.

“They have such a great history of winning and especially since they beat us at their home, we were like ‘no, this not going to happen again.’ We knew we had to come out hard.”

Despite its glittering record, it has been a hard road for the Tigers this winter.

“We have definitely dealt with a lot of adversity,” said Hill, pointing to season-ending knee injury to top scorer Niveen Rasheed in December as the team’s biggest challenge. “I think that has been our theme for the year is dealing with adversity.”

In Hill’s view, the way the Tigers have carried on in Rasheed’s absence speaks volumes about the team’s talent and character.

“It says that we are pretty deep and that we have a lot of options and we have a lot of people that can score,” added Hill.

“Everybody can really contribute. If you see us in practice, we are really going at it. We may not have a lot of players but we go at it really hard. We pride ourselves on being conditioned and ready to go.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, for her part, is proud of how her club persevered.

“Every year is so different and I know just how hard it is to get there and what this team has gone through,” said Banghart.

“This has not been an easy ride in terms of the adversity they have dealt with. I am most impressed with the consistency. These guys have been remarkably consistent over the last two and half years. It’s crazy.”

It was a remarkable evening for the team’s two seniors, Hill and Micir, who endured a 7-23 campaign in their freshman year.

“The fact that our seniors got the chance to cut the nets down in their home gym in front of this many people is great,” added Banghart, whose team posted a 13-0 mark at Jadwin Gym this winter.

“I could not have dreamed of a better senior night for these two kids. You try to get used to it but you try to make sure that you appreciate it. I am appreciating every second.”

Banghart appreciates how Hill has improved over her Princeton career. “I think Krystal plays with such great energy and she’s not afraid of anything,” asserted Banghart.

“She is just consistent with her effort. I am so happy for her. I think she just put a lot of time in. She has basically started from the ground up in terms of her skill set and in terms of her footwork. People used to love her as just an exciting player and now they see her as a real contributor. I think that is a just testament to her growth.”

The team has grown since the loss of Rasheed and the defeat to Harvard. “We are much better,” said Banghart, who got 15 points from Lauren Edwards in the victory Saturday with Devona Allgood chipping in 13 points and 10 rebounds and Kate Miller scoring 11 points.

“Because of our new lineup, we have put in different offensive looks in order to play to their strengths. Our competitive fire is just our anchor. With defense, we have always been solid. I think we are taking a little more care blocking out and we are running better. We are a little sharper on our new offensive reads.”

Princeton believes it will be sharper in its return to the NCAA tournament in the wake of its disappointing 65-47 loss to St. John’s in the opening round of the 2010 tourney.

“This is a pretty workmanlike group,” said Banghart. “Our goal is to win the first round of the NCAA tournament and go from there. The more tournaments you go to, the better chance you have to win in them. After the first half of the Ivies, we talked about going from good to great. You can’t be good and win the first round of the tournament. We need to retool and be ready for the first round.”

Hill, for her part, senses that the team is ready to produce a great effort in its second venture into March Madness.

“I think it is good to have that experience of having been there before so we are not going in shocked and in awe,” said Hill.

“I think we will go in a little more mentally prepared to come and say we are playing a basketball game and this is not the end and that you want to keep going.”

After coming so far over the last four years, it is no surprise that Hill wants to extend her basketball journey a little longer.

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