Bears finish season with wins over Crimson, Big Green

By
Monday, March 9, 2009

After missing his first five three-point attempts of the night, Garrett Leffelman ’11 was due. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Friday night’s game, Leffelman hoisted a shot from just behind the three-point line on the right perimeter. The ball rippled through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the men’s basketball team a 61-59 win over Harvard.

“Our coaching staff stresses that a shooter’s got to shoot, whether you’re 0-for-5, 0-for-10 or 10-for-10,” Leffelman said. “I wasn’t nervous at all – I just let it go.”

The Bears carried the momentum into Saturday night, when they sent off senior tri-captains Scott Friske ’09, who missed both games due to illness, and Chris Skrelja ’09 with a 69-59 win over Dartmouth on Senior Night at the Pizzitola Center.

“We just came out with a lot of energy and emotion,” Skrelja said. “I’ll never forget these games, and to get that feel of winning back is just a great feeling.”

Brown 61, Harvard 59

On Friday night, Brown (9-19, 3-11 Ivy) overcame a seven-point halftime deficit with 52 percent shooting from the field in the second half. Matt Mullery ’10 had one of his biggest nights of the season, going 9-of-9 from the field for a game-high 21 points, while also blocking three shots and bringing down a career-high 20 rebounds – a Pizzitola single-game record.

“To get 20 rebounds in a game is a special night, and to do it in conjunction with the points is just a phenomenal night,” said Head Coach Jesse Agel. “He’s a special player, having a great year, and I just can’t wait to watch him next season.”

The Crimson (14-14, 6-8 Ivy) went on an 11-2 run to take a 25-14 lead with 7:45 remaining in the half. But the Bears were able to cut the lead to 35-28 by halftime behind Mullery’s 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

“I was just trying to go after the ball on every possession and just keep the motor going,” Mullery said. “We owe it to our seniors, who have put in four years of hard work.”

In the first half, the Crimson thrived on the perimeter game in their motion offense, knocking down 5-of-12 three-point attempts.

The Bears were hot to start the second half. Skrelja scored on a post move just under four minutes in to put the Bears ahead, 38-37, their first lead since the opening minute of the game.

Chris Taylor ’11 knocked down a free throw to put the Bears up 46-39 with 11:18 left, concluding an 18-4 run to start the half.

But on the next three Harvard possessions, Harvard guard Jeremy Lin took over, draining a jumper, driving for a lay-up and dishing the ball to Andrew Pusar for an open three-pointer to tie the game at 46.

With Brown trailing 59-53, Adrian Williams ’11 connected on his second trey of the game with 1:35 left, and Mullery brought the crowd to its feet with a lay-up on an up-and-under move, cutting Harvard’s lead to one point with 47.7 seconds left.

Off a Harvard miss, tri-captain Peter Sullivan ’11 pulled down the rebound with eight seconds to play. Sullivan got the ball to Skrelja, who dribbled to the top of the key, hesitated and whisked the ball to Leffelman, who buried a three as time expired, drawing an eruption of cheers from the crowd and a celebration on the Brown sideline.

“On that last possession when we stopped them, I just felt like something good was going to happen,” Leffelman said. “We just took our time, and Chris found me, and I just let it go.”

Brown 69, Dartmouth 59

Brown never trailed in Saturday night’s game against Dartmouth (9-19, 7-7 Ivy), which played most of the first half without the Ivy League’s leading scorer, Alex Barnett, who picked up two fouls in the opening five minutes. Barnett still finished with 19 points to lead the Big Green, while Sullivan poured in a game-high 21 points, followed by Mullery and Skrelja, who each added 17. The Bears had a strong shooting night from start to finish, shooting 58 percent from the field on the night.

Mullery led the Bears with 12 points and three blocks in the first half, while Sullivan added nine points, to pace the Bears to a 37-29 halftime lead.

Skrelja converted a lay-up on a post move 3:15 after halftime to give the Bears a 43-34 lead, but then Barnett, back into the game, began to make his presence felt. Barnett, who entered the weekend averaging 19.7 points per game, hit a running jump shot and banked one in on a drive to cut the lead to five. After back-to-back buckets by Sullivan, Barnett drained a pull-up three-pointer to bring the score to 47-41 with 14:01 left.

But the Bears pulled away to take a 64-53 lead with 3:15 left

to play.

With 30 seconds remaining and his team up by 11 points, Agel sent in a substitute for Skrelja, who walked off the court to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Skrelja went out in style, finishing with a season-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, to go along with six rebounds and five assists.

“My body hasn’t been feeling great all year, but the adrenaline just took over tonight,” Skrelja said. “I’m really going to miss being a part of this team, all the great stuff like road trips and hanging out with the guys, but it was a phenomenal experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Sullivan finished the game 6-of-9 shooting.

“Peter had a tremendous game. He defended, he rebounded and he took the ball to the basket,” Agel said. “He’s had a really good season, and the sky’s the limit for him, with the type of body that he has and the amount of work that he puts in.”

With the two wins this weekend, the Bears finish the season with a 3-11 conference record, putting them last in the Ivy League standings, but for Agel and his team, the wins have great significance as a fitting tribute to the team’s two departing seniors.

“They’re wonderful people, and when I’m recruiting somebody I want them to be able to go to those guys, and I want our guys coming in to be like those guys,” Agel said. “They worked hard all the time, they cared, they were passionate, they were good teammates and they’re what Brown basketball aspires to be.”