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It took an overtime thriller, a second-half injury comeback, and 25 prior years of disappointment, but finally—finally—women's basketball secured that elusive fifteenth victory. With a 66-59 win over the reigning champion Dartmouth, Columbia (15-9, 6-4 Ivy) clinched its first ever winning season in program history. The win, which came on Columbia's annual Pink Zone Night, also gave Columbia its first season sweep over Dartmouth since the 1990-1991 season and marked only the second time the past five years that any Ivy League team has swept Dartmouth. Playing in front of a full-capacity crowd, the Lions were full of life right from tip-off. Columbia's all-Ivy forward Judie Lomax set the tone by corralling a loose ball and ripping it from the other Dartmouth defender clinging on. The possession ended positively when guard-forward Kathleen Barry, who missed the previous three games with a knee injury, nailed a corner trey to give Columbia an early 3-2 lead. Columbia continued to pour it on, displaying its grit with a dominant interior defense. Center Lauren Dwyer, who finished the game with a career-high seven blocks, swatted a layup attempt by reigning Ivy Player of the Year Brittney Smith. A minute later, Dwyer stuffed Smith's attempt again, sending the crowd into frenzy. On the next possession, Dwyer completed her series of defensive stuffs with her third block in just two minutes. "Every year we come in and really want to beat them," Dwyer said. " Anything I can do to contribute I want to do, and that was my contribution tonight." Dwyer almost single-handedly smothered the Big Green offense—only one Dartmouth player scored in the first ten minutes of play—but Columbia's own offense was sluggish against the Ivy League's second-ranked defense. That changed when super-sub Melissa Shafer entered the game. Shafer carried the Columbia offense, going on a 9-0 run by herself to give Columbia a 12-4 lead. "She's done a great job of embracing her role on the team of being that offensive sparkplug off the bench," head coach Paul Nixon said of Shafer. " When she comes in like she did tonight and is able to take a game from 3 to 2 and immediately put 12 points on the board, that's tremendous." The Light Blue appeared to be cruising to its milestone victory, but the reigning champs displayed their fortitude, going on an 11-0 run to take a 15-12 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. Still, behind more scoring from Shafer—she scored 12 first-half points and finished with a career-high 15—Columbia looked to be in good shape, taking a 21-17 lead after Shafer converted a three-point play. A minute later though, the crowd became dead silent after Columbia's star forward Lomax fell to the floor with an ankle injury. After several minutes, she was helped to the locker room with a minute left to play. The half ended 26-23 in Columbia's favor after center Caitlin Stachon made a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer. The crowd would erupt at the onset of the second half when Lomax came out of the locker room and jogged onto the court. Lomax played well in the second half, scoring nine points and grabbing many key rebounds. Every contribution from her was necessary, as the game swung back-and-forth with five lead changes in the second half. With a minute left, Dartmouth had the ball and a 53-51 lead. The Big Green got the ball inside, but the Lions' Dwyer blocked Margaret Smith's layup attempt and the two teams scrambled for the loose ball. Dwyer emerged out of the fray with possession and swung an outlet pass to senior guard Danielle Browne who was streaking down the court. In transition, Browne found a way to drive by her defender and forced a foul with 46 seconds left on the game clock. The senior tri-captain displayed her composure, hitting both free throws to tie the game at 53. On the next play, Margaret Smith drove through what appeared to be an opening in the lane, but Lomax appeared out of nowhere to take the crucial charge. The charge gave Columbia the last possession and also gave Margaret Smith her fifth and final foul. The Light Blue had one last chance to secure the win with the score tied at 53 and 20 seconds remaining on the game clock. Senior guard Sara Yee had the ball open in the corner, but she missed the game-winning 3-pointer. Barry had another chance after gathering Yee's miss, but failed to make a contested layup, sending the game to overtime. In overtime, Barry and Yee quickly made up for their misses. Barry hit a free throw to trim the Big Green lead to one, and following a basket by Dartmouth guard Faziah Steen, Yee hit a trey to tie the game 57-57. Columbia would find more offense, with Lomax, Dwyer, and Browne all scoring after Yee's trey. Meanwhile, the Big Green offense fell flat. Dartmouth forward Sasha Dosenko, who finished with a game-high 19 points, missed a jumper and with the game close, Dartmouth's Brittney Smith missed two critical free throws. That was enough for Columbia to escape with the win and the 66-59 overtime victory gave the Lions their first ever winning season and moved them into clear third in the conference. "For them [Dartmouth] to get swept in a season series, is very, very uncommon, and you can see why," Nixon said. "They were so tough in the second half, coming back, making runs, making runs, making runs. And the way that our young women stepped up and answered every run, I'm as proud as I can be of any team I've ever coached." The next day, coming off the emotional win, Columbia hosted the same Harvard team that handed them a 73-55 loss a month ago. Early on, Harvard's Emma Markley controlled the paint with two early blocks in the first five minutes of play. It was reminiscent of last time's loss at Harvard, in which Markley's presence bothered Columbia's offense into a 20-point first half. This time though, the Columbia attack kept pace with Harvard's second-ranked offense, and headed into the half leading 34-33. Lomax paced the way with 10 first-half points, and Shafer provided her usual spark off the bench, scoring seven points in five minutes. The Lions' full-court press was also executed well, forcing the Crimson into 14 first-half turnovers. The next half was close throughout. Harvard looked as if it would pull away, climbing ahead by nine points with six minutes remaining. The Light Blue roared back though, staging a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead. Barry, who finished the game with eight points and 10 rebounds, scored four points in that stretch. That run ended when Harvard guard Brogan Berry spun and sunk an off-balance jumper to take a 65-64 lead. A few plays later Berry would again raise Harvard in the closing moments of the game, hitting both free throws after a questionable foul was called on guard Sara Yee. With those free throws, Harvard took a 69-67 lead. Columbia would have several opportunities to send the game to overtime, but with time winding down on the game clock, could not convert. Yee missed a trey but Columbia retained possession with 5.3 seconds left. The next play, Dwyer missed a baseline jumper, and Lomax's follow-up attempt was blocked to end the game. With the weekend games, Columbia now stands 15-9 overall, and 6-4 in conference play. Next weekend, women's basketball travels to the Philadelphia to play winless Penn (1-22, 0-9 Ivy) before playing in its last away game of the season at undefeated Princeton (21-2, 9-0 Ivy).

Women's Basketball
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