Ellie Mitchell ’24 and Kaitlyn Chen ’24 didn’t start their time at Princeton together. Mitchell was a freshman on the 2019-20 women’s basketball team that saw its March Madness dreams shut down by COVID. Chen arrived the next fall, living off campus as a freshman while Mitchell took a gap year. But for the last three seasons, the two have defined one of Princeton’s most remarkable runs in any sport: three years of dominance in the Ivy League, each capped with an Ivy Tournament championship.

“Obviously, on the court we spend a lot of time together, but off the court as well,” Mitchell said. “You probably can’t find me, Kaitlyn, or Chet [Nweke ’24] without one of the others by their side. … And I think our ability to just have fun, to have that kind of trust and that strong relationship — no matter how anything is going, we know we’re there for each other. It makes it more fun to be playing with people you love.”

The third tournament final may have been the Tigers’ most daunting assignment: a matchup of the league’s regular season co-champions, Princeton and Columbia, on Columbia’s home court Saturday night. But Princeton’s composure reigned: Madison St. Rose ’26 made the game’s first two baskets, and the Tigers never trailed, gradually building an advantage with smothering defense and confident shooting en route to a 75-58 win.

Three players with "ticket punched" sign
From left, seniors Ellie Mitchell, Kaitlyn Chen, and Chet Nweke.
Lem Photography

Head coach Carla Berube came to the postgame press conference in an orange Kaitlyn Chen T-shirt. It was not a planned change, she said — her original outfit got soaked in the locker room celebration — but it seemed appropriate on a night when her star guard was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for the third time.

“I’ve said this before: When you have Kaitlyn Chen on your team, you’re going to be OK,” Berube said.

After a slow start in Friday’s semifinal win over Penn, Princeton came out with a spring in its step in the final and Chen running the show. St. Rose made the Tigers’ first two shots, Skye Belker ’27 drained a 3-pointer from the left corner, and Nweke, Mitchell, and Tabitha Amanze ’26 muscled in layups from the post. Seven different Tigers scored in the opening quarter. Chen had the hot hand in the second, scoring eight points.

“Whether it was getting into the post or it was on drives, I think it was really important for us to get paint touches,” Berube said. “That can open up things on the outside. I think what we did today was we moved the ball really well. We didn’t take the first or second shot that we saw.”

Meanwhile, Columbia struggled, committing seven turnovers in the first quarter — some forced, others self-induced. The Lions shot 6-of-16 from 3-point range, which kept Princeton’s lead in check, and trailed the Tigers 34-27 at halftime.

Ashley Chea ’27 was Princeton’s third-quarter star, scoring eight points in the frame, including two 3-pointers. She also fed a brilliant pass to Parker Hill ’25 under the basket for a layup in the quarter’s closing seconds, which gave Princeton a 55-39 lead.

Columbia tried to mount a last charge, boosted by 3-pointers by Abbey Hsu, the Ivy League Player of the Year, who finished with a team-high 20 points. But Princeton absorbed every blow and charged back with its own hot shooting. St. Rose finished the game with 18 points, including two 3-pointers. Chen had 17 points and six assists. Mitchell had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Princeton returns to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year and the fifth consecutive season in which it was eligible (the 2020 tournament was canceled, and the Ivies did not play in 2020-21 because of the COVID pandemic).

The Tigers earned a first-round matchup with West Virginia in Iowa City — and a potential meeting with Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes in round two.