Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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HEAVY LIFTING: Princeton University women’s basketball senior co-captains Cheryl Stevens, left, and Tani Brown hoist the Ivy League championship trophy as Tiger head coach Courtney Banghart applauds her club’s achievement. Princeton accepted the trophy on March 9 after it beat Penn to finish 26-2 overall and 14-0 in Ivy League action. The Tigers, who bring a 21-game winning streak into the upcoming NCAA tournament, have already set a single-season record for most wins in Ivy women’s hoops history.

Tiger Women’s Hoops Heading South in NCAAs; Aiming to Make Breaks in Clash With St. John’s

Bill Alden

A lot of college kids head down to Florida to get some rest and relaxation over spring break.

This weekend, a contingent of 12 Princeton University women will be traveling together to Tallahassee, Fla. but they won’t be there to lounge around and soak up rays.

Instead, the group of buddies, the Princeton women’s basketball team, will be in the Sunshine State looking to take care of business as the program makes its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

The 11th seeded Tigers (26-2 overall, 14-0 Ivy League) will face No. 6 St. John’s (24-6 overall, 12-4 Big East) on March 20 with the winner to face the victor of the clash between No. 3 Florida State 14th-seeded Louisiana Tech on March 22 in a second round contest.

As the players watched a large-screen TV in an upstairs room at the Triumph Brewery on Nassau Street last Monday evening to learn their NCAA assignment, Tiger senior co-captain Tani Brown felt the pressure as Princeton waited until the last segment of the Selection Show to hear its destination.

“I felt like I was just going to faint; I was so nervous and excited,” said Brown of the Selection Show viewing party which drew such luminaries as Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman, Tiger Director of Athletics Gary Walters, and Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris.

“Words can’t describe that feeling. We are excited to be in the tournament; it’s spring break and we’re excited to just get out of New Jersey.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is excited with the challenge of trying to topple the Red Storm.

“I am so happy for the kids; I think St. Johns is a great match-up for us,” said a beaming Banghart, who was bear-hugging a procession of well-wishers for minutes after the bracket was revealed.

“They are very athletic and they played in a very tough conference. They have some slashers so they are going to look to penetrate. We have to be able to rebound. We have some schemes on offense that I think we will be able to score on as well. I think they will overlook us and that’s good; that’s how we like it.”

Banghart believes her team can strike a blow for the Ivies. “I’d love the kids to play as hard as they have all year and be hard to score on which they take a lot of pride in,” said Banghart, whose team brings a 21-game winning streak into the tournament.

“Our kids can compete against a lot of kids in this country and our goal is to show everyone that.”

In Brown’s view, the Tigers have what it takes to compete against the elite of college women’s basketball.

“We are going for the win,” said Brown, a 5’7 native of Los Angeles, Calif., who has averaged 3.0 points and 2.1 rebounds a game in her role as a back-up point guard.

“In the losses we had to UCLA and Rutgers, we were leading in both of those games and that was two or three months ago when we were still trying to get to know each other as a team. I feel like we are really peaking. Even this week in practice, we were playing really great basketball, being really competitive with each other.”

Having competed in two NCAA tournaments during her playing career at Dartmouth and appearing in two others as an assistant coach at her alma mater, Banghart is determined to see her players savor the March Madness experience.

“I want them to enjoy every second; what they have given us since last March is tremendous,” said Banghart, whose Tiger squad earned the highest-ever seed in the tourney by an Ivy team.

“I want those kids just to work hard in practice two hours a day and then in the game. Besides that, I want them to love every single second of it because I sure did.”

For Brown, it was a pep talk from Banghart two years ago that helped propel the Tigers on the road to the NCAA tournament.

“Our coach stopped practice one day during her first year and said ‘I don’t think you guys understand that the NCAA tournament is one of the most amazing experiences of your life and it is something that only a few human beings ever get to experience,’” recalled Brown.

“We were all just quiet; we couldn’t speak to it because we hadn’t had that experience. To go through it and actually be here, I am so thankful to my coaches and so proud to be on this team.”

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