Photo: Snilliam Wow / The Daily Pennsylvanian
If we learned one thing this season, it's that you should never count out Penn men's basketball. And while the women's team was suffering a heartbreaking loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament after leading by 21 points in the fourth quarter, the men were pulling off a comeback that even Texas A&M couldn't have dreamed of.
The Quakers bounced back from a demoralizing Ivy League semifinal loss in resounding fashion, acquiring the Ivy League Championship in a daring midnight raid conducted at Princeton headquarters whilst the Tigers slept.
"Well, sh*t," said befuddled Princeton coach Mitch Henderson.
"I'm damn proud of the guys," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "I've always said my Sweet 16 run back at Cornell was the proudest moment of my life, but Temple and Wisconsin, while they each boasted a mean 2-3 zone defense, didn't have red laser grids or a safe. Not in 2010, at least."
The Quakers started the season 0-6 in league play, and it looked like they would continue a title drought dating back to 2007, when Glen Miller's squad won seven-eighths of the championship before acquiring the remainder at gunpoint during Spring Fling.
But the Red and Blue never gave up, storming back with five straight wins and then a win in the season finale to clinch a spot in the first Ivy League Tournament. Penn then led the whole way in the league semifinal against undefeated Princeton, but a missed free throw from senior Matt Howard allowed the Tigers to send the game to overtime, where they would beat Penn before taking the title against Harvard the next day.
"Matt didn't want the last image of him in a Penn uniform to be that missed free throw," Donahue said. "So when I told him that image could be him in a ski mask — with a pair of grappling hooks strapped to his elbows and a jetpack on his back — the Ivy League Trophy finally in his hands, he decided to take a leadership role in the heist."
The key contributor in the raid, however, ended up being superstar freshman AJ Brodeur.
"He literally just walked right through the front door, cracked a couple jokes with the security guards, asked for the keys, got them, walked into the Trophy Room, grabbed it and left," the Princeton coach explained after looking at the tapes.
"There was nothing we could do to stop it."
For Coach Donahue, the collaborative effort and self-confidence the team displayed throughout the night was more special than the trophy itself.
"One of our alumni suggested we ask the Russians to help us steal the title, but the boys agreed we could handle this one in-house."
Of course, the mission for the Quakers is now to ensure their reign lasts longer than that of their unceremoniously dethroned rivals. Athletic Director M. Grace Calhoun suggested that, for safety purposes, the trophy should be kept where it won't be exposed to members of the student body.
"The Palestra is probably the safest place — the only place, really — for this trophy to be held."