Robert Cole/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

NEW YORK — The chances that the Princeton Tigers women’s basketball team was already safe with an NCAA Tournament bid going into Saturday’s league championship game looked pretty good, given their strong computer numbers and recent history of Big Dance success. But Kaitlyn Chen and Ellie Mitchell, vital members of the Tigers teams during the past two forays into the NCAAs, made sure to remove all doubt that another chance at more victories in the Big Dance was in the bag.

Chen scored 17 points while Mitchell, who became the school’s all-time leading rebounder last night, added 12 points and 10 rebounds as top-seeded Princeton downed No. 2 Columbia 75-58 in the Ivy League Tournament title game inside Levien Gymnasium on the Columbia University campus. The Tigers have won each of the last five Ivy League Tournaments on offer, as the event was not held in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus.

Since the reinstatement of the event, the Tigers are 6-0, and Chen has won the tournament most outstanding player award each time. Chen made seven of her 12 shots from the field while also dishing out six assists.

After barely pulling through the challenge of Penn in the semifinals, a game where Mitchell drew a questionable charge with the Tigers up 3 with less than a minute left, things were more straightforward for the Tigers against the team that last defeated them in the regular season.

“I thought we had a different energy to us. Yesterday I felt a little frantic but today I felt like locked in,” Chen said. “We were like one collective group together and I felt that calmness and energy from my teammates and that kept me going.”

Princeton took a seven-point lead into halftime, 34-27, before an 8-0 spurt midway through the third quarter extended the lead to double digits. A Chen jumper was sandwiched by threes from Madison St. Rose and Ashley Chea to give Princeton all the momentum, with Chea’s three set up by a Mitchell offensive rebound on a tap out.

Columbia was not able to cut its deficit back down to single digits from then on. Conference player of the year Abbey Hsu led the Lions with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Kitty Henderson and Cecelia Collins each had 13. The Lions end the season winning 21 of their last 23 games, with both losses coming to Princeton. Columbia did beat the Lions at home three weeks ago, and it hopes that win, plus being a regular-season co-champion with the Tigers is enough to merit an NCAA Tournament at-large bid when Selection Sunday rolls around tomorrow.

“We’ve won 21 of our last 23 games. We won 11 straight heading into this. We beat Princeton when they were ranked Top-25 in the country. We did everything we could to build a resume,” Columbia head coach Megan Griffith said. “We played teams with a new team – we had seven graduating seniors last year. We completely rebuilt the roster. We’re being penalized for needing to schedule games when people don’t want to play us. We shared the regular season championship with Princeton two years in a row, who’s a tournament team that’s proven to win games in the NCAA tournament.

“I can’t say enough about Abbey Hsu. She’s one of the best players in the country and she needs to be seen. I really hope the Committee gives her and this team a chance because if we just keep being in this spot, we’re not growing the game.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday’s event, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are eight pictures in total.

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