Princeton coach Courtney Banghart was back in her office a day after her Tigers’ perfect season came to an end.
There were phone calls to return, texts to answers and thank you letters to write.
“It was something wasn’t it,” Banghart said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “This really was a special group and nothing can take away from what they accomplished this season.”
Princeton’s remarkable run, which ended on Monday night in an 85-70 loss to No. 1 seed Maryland, drew national attention. It’s not every day that the President of the United States attends a game, but Barack Obama was there on Saturday cheering on his niece who is a freshman on the team. Obama saw a historic game as the eighth-seeded Tigers earned their first NCAA Tournament victory, beating Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round.
The cheerer-in-chief wasn’t the only high-profile fan of the Tigers this season. First lady Michelle Obama took in an early season win over American. Former Senator Bill Bradley, who led the Princeton men’s team to its only Final Four 50 years ago, addressed the team after a win in February.
Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who both graduated Princeton, sat near the Tigers’ bench in the loss to the Terrapins.
“I never could have thought we would have gotten the attention we did this year,” Banghart said. “Everything this team got, they earned.”
The list of accomplishments was impressive:
— Highest ranking ever in The Associated Press poll, finishing at No. 13.
— Earning an eighth-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was the best ever for an Ivy League school.
— Going 30-0 in the regular season, the best record in Ivy League history for a men’s or women’s team.
“They made history,” Banghart said of her team. “I told them all you want to do in your life is leave a legacy and do something with impact. There’s not anyone on this team that doesn’t think they did both of those things.”
This wasn’t a one-hit wonder for the Tigers.
They have won the Ivy League title in five of the past six years and are poised to do it again next year. The Tigers return most of their team. They lose Ivy League player of the year Blake Dietrick, but return a solid group led by juniors Annie Tarakchian, Alex Wheatley and Michelle Miller. Not to mention Obama’s niece, Leslie Robinson, who has a bright future.
Banghart plans on seeing the Tigers back in the NCAA Tournament and winning more games.
“Now that we’ve won one, we know we can compete at this level. There’s no reason we can’t get further next year,” she said.
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