Bella Alarie ’20 was named the Ivy League Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring a game-high 25 points in Princeton’s 65–54 championship win over Penn March 17 (and 21 points in the prior day’s semifinal win over Cornell). But it was Alarie’s defense that keyed the most pivotal plays of the Princeton-Penn game.
After the Quakers took a three-point lead into the final quarter, Alarie blocked Penn’s star forward, Eleah Parker, and kept the ball in play, allowing Gabrielle Rush ’19 to race ahead for a fast-break layup and foul shot that tied the game 47–47. Later, Alarie blocked Parker again to preserve a 51–51 tie, followed by another Rush basket that took the lead for good.
Alarie added a steal down the stretch that helped seal the victory. In her highly anticipated battle with Parker — a matchup of the only two unanimous All-Ivy honorees, the league’s Player of the Year (Alarie) against the Defensive Player of the Year (Parker) — Alarie won decisively, holding the Penn center to 10 points on 5–23 shooting and blocking her four times. Alarie also played all 40 minutes of the game.
“Eleah Parker’s really good — she’s exceptional, and Bella is one of the few people in the country that can guard her. She doesn’t shoot from far away, so those were 23 shots that were around the paint, and [Alarie] was able to disrupt them,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, who added that Alarie’s leadership extended to the postgame celebration — she started a dance party in front of the Princeton Band.
Though Princeton and Penn had finished first and second in the league for five straight years, this was the first year they shared the conference championship, finishing with identical 12–2 records. The tournament final was a rubber match on multiple levels — not only did the two sides split this season’s regular-season meetings, but they also beat one another in the last two Ivy League Tournament finals (Penn winning in 2017, Princeton in 2018).
In the NCAA Tournament, Princeton earned a No. 11 seed and a first-round meeting with No. 6-seed Kentucky in Raleigh, N.C., March 23. The Tigers led at halftime and for parts of the third quarter before the Wildcats surged ahead with a 9–0 run. Kentucky made 15 of 26 second-half shots on its way to a 82–77 victory.
Alarie scored 20 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and assisted on five Tiger baskets. Rush scored 22 points, including six 3-pointers, and Sydney Jordan ’19 had a career-high 17 points in her final collegiate game.