Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ivy Madness: Yale Bows Out

Yale's all-time leading scorer, Earl "Butch" Graves '84, a Scarsdale native, was honored during the Yale-Penn tournament game in Philadelphia, Mar. 11. (YWAA photos)
After having finished in the top four, both Yale's men's and women's basketball teams made the trek Mar. 11 to Philadelphia for the second annual Ivy League basketball tournament. Cheerleaders, the Yale Precision Marching Band, dozens of alumni in blue and a handful of students filed into the ancient Palestra arena.  For the second year in a row, the tournament, even for all the special electricity and celebration of Ivy athletics, turned into big home games for Penn's teams. While Yale followers journeyed from afar, Penn fans scampered across campus and town and helped jam the old gym with red and blue. Yale's men and women lost in first-round games. 

Penn's men's squad demolished Yale, 80-57, on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs, which had beaten the Quakers at home, 80-79, on Mar. 2, forgot how to shoot, missing baskets from every spot on the floor and missing them consistently.  Later that evening, Yale's women also scored 57 and lost to Princeton (78-57), which beat Penn for the Ivy title.

Yale teams didn't retreat back to New Haven with heads too bowed.  That Yale is competing in basketball in mid-March is a phenomenon only a few years old. That Yale teams have winning records year after year now puts satisfying smiles on Yale basketball followers (and athletic-department officials). (The men's team lost to Princeton in the finals last year, won the league title the year before, and lost in a play-off to Harvard the year before that.)

In its second year, the tournament is already a festive pat on the back to how things are conducted in the Ivy League.  Tournament officials run the affair like other big-time tournaments (bands, banners, on-court contests, loudspeaker music, all-tournament teams, confetti, etc.), but with Ivy League flavor with steady reminders of scholar-athletes and basketball alumni with stunning off-court achievements.

Westchester's Earl "Butch" Graves '84, arguably one of Yale's best ever players, who led the Bulldogs in 1980-84, was honored on court during an intermission for being one of the Ivy League's "legends," one of its all-time best.  Before Yale, Graves was a star at Scarsdale High School. At Yale, he set scoring records (2,090 points, best at Yale), many of which still stand. After Yale, he continues to be a big supporter of Yale basketball and leader among its basketball alumni. (One-time Westchester resident John J. Lee, Jr., '58 scored 1,493 points in three varsity seasons.)

The men's team, which finished 16-15 this year, will start the next season in China with a game against Cal. The women will play at least one more game (vs. Northeastern in the WBI tournament).

In the men's tournament, Penn beat Harvard for the Ivy League championship, as Penn fans swarmed the court after its 63-60 victory. (YWAA photos)

Yale shot poorly against Penn and lost 80-57, after having beaten the Quakers in New Haven, Mar. 2 They launch the 2018-19 season with a game against Cal in China. (YWAA photos)

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