The Lions mounted a double-digit comeback against Cornell, earning a 69–64 victory in an overtime thriller on Senior Day. With the win, the Lions secured a share of the Ivy League Championship with Princeton.

The Lions are champions.

After a long season, it came down to one game. A sell-out crowd gathered at Levien Gymnasium to watch the Lions take on the Cornell Big Red (10–17, 3–11 Ivy) in the highly anticipated season finale, one win away from history.

The Big Red didn’t fall easily. It took a 12-point comeback and an overtime period for the Lions to finish the job, but Columbia Women’s Basketball (23–4, 12–2 Ivy) got to cut down the nets Saturday, winning the regular season Ivy League title for the first time in the program’s 37-year history.

Things did not come easy for the Lions in the first half. The Big Red came out strong, playing stout defense and stifling Columbia’s offense. After trading baskets for the first five minutes of the first quarter, Sienna Durr (CC ’23) hit a layup to tie the score at 12–12.

From there, it was all Big Red.

Cornell rattled off a 9–0 run to close out the first quarter, jumping out to an early 21–12 lead and setting the Lion faithful on edge. Cornell scorched Columbia on both ends of the floor, shooting 64% from the floor and holding the Lions to just 31%.

In the second quarter, things weren’t much better. The Lions went even colder on offense, converting just three of 12 shot attempts. Jaida Patrick (CC ’23) scored seven of the Lions’ 12 points in the quarter, including a pair of free throws that cut the Cornell lead to three points with two minutes to play in the half, 27–24. Back-to-back buckets by Cornell’s Ania McNicholas, however, pushed the Big Red lead back to seven points before halftime.

Halftime Score: 31–24 Cornell

Things would get worse in the second half before they got better. After three minutes of action, Cornell had extended its lead to 12, grabbing a 39–27 edge over the Lions off a Mia Beam jumper. 

Carly Rivera (SEAS ’23) later knocked in a desperately-needed three-pointer, reviving the crowd’s enthusiasm and bringing the Lions within eight points of Cornell, still trailing 39–31. From there it was a slow climb back, one that occurred at the free throw line. Cornell’s Emily Pape hit a bucket extending the Cornell lead back to 10, but Paige Lauder (CC ’24) answered while drawing Ania McNicholas’s fourth foul. Lauder went to the line and hit both free throws, cutting the lead down again to eight points with five minutes left in the quarter.

Just over a minute later, Lauder struck again, converting a layup and drawing the foul from Cornell’s Shannon Mulroy. Lauder hit the extra free throw, bringing the Lions within four points of the Big Red. With under four minutes to play in the quarter, Columbia trailed 41–37.

After a few low-scoring minutes, Lauder came up big once more, hitting a three-pointer that cut the Cornell lead to just one point. The next possession, Sienna Durr made a fastbreak layup, giving Columbia its first lead since the first quarter. The crowd jumped to its feet; Columbia led 44–43.

Cornell quickly answered, briefly reclaiming the lead, but Kitty Henderson (CC ’25) went to the line and hit two free throws of her own. After the third quarter—in which the Lions exploded for 22 points, including eight from the foul line—Columbia held a precarious 46–45 lead.

The fourth quarter was mayhem.

The lead changed hands 10 times as the Lions and Big Red went down the home stretch. Down two points with 6:16 left to play, Kaitlyn Davis (CC ’23) went up strong, drawing the foul from Cornell’s McNicholas and hitting the layup. MicNicholas, who had led the Big Red in scoring with 16 points, fouled out. Davis finished the three-point play, giving Columbia the 50–49 lead.

The fourth quarter proceeded in this back-and-forth fashion, with no team leading by more than a single point until Abbey Hsu (CC ’24) hit a clutch three with just 1:33 on the clock, setting the Lions ahead 61–57. Columbia was tasting victory.

Not so fast.

With just over a minute left, Kaitlyn Davis fouled out, and Summer Parker-Hall hit two free throws to cut the Lions’ lead to two. Cornell’s Emily Pape hit the game-tying layup with just six seconds left on the clock, knotting the score at 61–61. After Jaida Patrick’s last-second attempt was off the mark, the game headed to overtime.

After a quick shot by Abbey Hsu and a free throw by Jaida Patrick to kick off overtime, the Lions took a 64–61 lead and would never trail again. The overtime period went decisively Columbia’s way, and Patrick sealed the victory with a layup with 11 seconds to play. 69–64 was the final score, and the Columbia Lions walked away with a hard-fought Senior Day victory against rival Cornell and its first-ever Ivy League Championship.

Abbey Hsu and Jaida Patrick led the Lions in points, scoring 16 and 15 points respectively. Paige Lauder provided a much-needed spark, adding nine points in her 13 minutes of action, helping to get Columbia back in the game. Columbia was able to overcome their first-half offensive woes, shooting 48% from the floor in the second half. The Lions were especially clutch from the free throw line, converting 21 of 29 attempts.

Next weekend, Columbia will head to the Ivy League Tournament and vie for the program’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. They will square off against Harvard (16–10, 9–5 Ivy) in the semifinal game held at Princeton University on Friday, March 10 at 7 pm. If they win, they would face the winner of the other semifinal contest between Princeton and Penn on Saturday at 5 pm. The winner heads to March Madness.

CHAMPS!!! via Elijah Knodell