April 4, 2001: Sports

Men's basketball bows out of NCAA's big dance
Tigers' unlikely ride comes to an end

Beltway's best lacrosse
Rob Bordley '70 has a winner at Landon

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Men's basketball bows out of NCAA's big dance
Tigers' unlikely ride comes to an end

The walk is the worst. You come to the NCAA tournament ready to win, ready to be the next Gabe Lewullis '99, ready to do something so special that you become a fixture on ESPN Classic every March. And then, in 40 minutes, it's all over. Only you're not left alone to come to grips with it. Instead, you have to make the walk.

In the very regimented world of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the losing team has 15 minutes in its locker room before its players are required to walk to the interview room. For members of the Princeton men's basketball team, that meant a walk through a corridor in the cavernous Louisiana Superdome after a 70-48 loss to North Carolina on March 15 in New Orleans.

However disappointing that walk might have been for the Tigers, it shouldn't detract from their marvelous and surprising 2000-01 season. This was a team of backups and jayvee players, a team with plenty of room on its bandwagon as late as mid-February. And yet what this team was able to do together was remarkable.

"It's hard to sit here after a loss and realize how good the year was and what this group accomplished," said head coach John Thompson that night after making his own walk to the interview room.

Princeton earned a spot in the tournament by winning its 34th Ivy League championship. This team, whose members spent the entire season answering questions about who wasn't there, won the title with one quasi-star, senior center Nate Walton, and an eight-man rotation from which any player could carry the team on any given night.

"No one thought this team had a chance," said freshman Ed Persia. "It took a complete team effort. Our strength was that anyone was capable of stepping up in any game."

There's nothing in sports like the NCAA men's basketball tournament - a frenzied, single-elimination battle of attrition - and the experience that every Princeton player had was something to cherish forever. The Tigers claimed their spot in the NCAA field with a Tuesday night drubbing of the Penn Quakers on March 6, which left five days before the tournament seeds were announced to speculate about who Princeton would draw as an opening-round foe. The media flocked to the Tigers, and, fittingly for this team, most of the questions were about John Thompson's father (the Hall-of-Fame coach from Georgetown with the same name), Nate Walton's father (Hall-of-Fame player Bill Walton), and Chris Young (who would have been this team's star had he not signed a professional baseball contract).

The Sunday before the tournament, Princeton was handed the 15th seed in the South Region and a matchup with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, a team that spent much of the season at the top of the national rankings.

At 10:13 p.m. on Friday night, Princeton tipped off against the Heels. And before anyone could blink, the Tigers were down 8-0 and 16-6, and the lead began to grow as Princeton missed its first eight three-point attempts. It was 36-13 UNC before Persia hit a three-pointer at the first-half buzzer.

North Carolina pushed its lead to 41-20 two minutes into the second half, but then a magical thing happened. On this night it was Persia who stepped it up for the Tigers. The freshman guard made three three-pointers in two minutes to spark an 18-9 Tiger run that cut the lead to 12. Unfortunately for Princeton, Carolina was too big and too tough. Tar Heels Brendan Haywood and Julius Peppers, who between them stand 13 feet, seven inches and weigh nearly 600 pounds, combined for 27 points on 12 of 14 shooting from the field.

Persia led all Princeton scorers with 16 points, while Walton finished his brilliant senior season with nine points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Freshman Andre Logan had a solid game against UNC with eight points and two assists.

"You grow up watching the tournament and dreaming about playing in it," Logan said. "It was a dream come true to be a part of it. It just didn't go the way we wanted."

Maybe that one night didn't, but there was no changing the fact that this was a special season. Princeton has won a mountain of championships and figures to win another mountain in the future. But there was something different about this one. "This means so much," said senior guard C. J. Chapman, who closed his career as one of the program's leading three-point shooters.

This was a group of guys who played hard together and for their young coaches and won with an equal combination of talent, chemistry, and fearlessness.

They were a joy to watch.

By Jerry Price

Jerry Price is the assistant director of sports information at Princeton University.


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Beltway’s best lacrosse
Rob Bordley ’70 has a winner at Landon

eventeen years ago Rob Bordley '70 anxiously anticipated two significant events - the birth of his second son and a fourth consecutive conference championship for the Landon School Bears, the men's high school lacrosse team that Bordley coaches. Both came to pass, and the lacrosse program that Bordley built from scratch in Bethesda, Maryland, has since become a national juggernaut.

Bordley took over the Landon varsity in 1975 and has led the Bears to a 351-58 record during his tenure - winning all 20 conference titles since 1981. Landon, an all-boys' school, is now a fixture at the top of the Washington Post's regional high-school lacrosse rankings. And in 1999 Lacrosse Magazine ranked the Bears number one in the nation. Bordley's 1999 and 2000 squads produced a dozen players who went on to play for major NCAA lacrosse programs.

Bordley believes his coaching success has been the product of an intense love of his craft. "People who are successful are obsessed," he explains. "Anyone who knows me knows that lacrosse is my obsession." Sherman Joyce '82, who played goalie under Bordley at Landon and later volunteered as an assistant coach at the school, says of his former coach, "He's very methodical. There is nobody who knows the game as well as he does. Yet he really is humble about it. He gives far more credit to others than a lot of people would."

Though Bordley is responsible for Landon's rise to national lacrosse prominence, he routinely deflects credit to his assistant coaches, many of whom rearrange busy work schedules to volunteer on the Landon sidelines. Bordley says, "The only time I ever get mad at [assistant coach] John Shooshan is if he says, 'Rob, you should be so proud of what you've done.' I tell him, 'It should be what we've done.' By now he corrects himself, because otherwise I jump all over him about it."

As a Landon student Bordley overcame small stature to become a star athlete. Yet he knew nothing about lacrosse until he tried out for Princeton's freshman team. Still, during four years of lacrosse at Old Nassau - three on the varsity - Bordley won second-team All-Ivy honors as a junior and honorable mention as a senior. Bordley also played three seasons of varsity football, including an All-Ivy year as the Tigers' split end.

Following graduation from Princeton, Bordley returned to Landon to teach history, and within a few years he was coaching lacrosse - a sport that was brand-new to Landon and much of the Washington, D.C., area. "We got thumped in the early days," the coach recalls. Teams from Baltimore and Long Island - where lacrosse has deeper roots - were particularly tough, but Bordley scheduled games against them in order to challenge his team. "It's only in the last few years that I think most people would agree that we can compete with just about anybody," Bordley says.

"What he's been able to do as a coach is to channel his energies into productive endeavors," says Lawrence L. Lamade '69, a Washington attorney who attended both Landon and Princeton a year ahead of Bordley and whose sons have both played for Bordley at Landon. "He's a tough disciplinarian, but he's always conducted himself like a gentleman."

Bordley acknowledges resorting to "a little browbeating every once in a while" - always for mental errors, not physical mistakes. But he says that raising, and coaching, his own children has mellowed his outbursts - at least a little bit. "Some of the anxieties you feel as a parent make you appreciate the concerns of other parents," Bordley says.

Two years ago many of Bordley's former players decided it was time to give back to Landon and their coach. They donated $500,000 to endow a chair for a Landon teacher-coach - a chair that Bordley will fill as long as he wishes. Though he figures to be at the school for the foreseeable future, Bordley says he'd like to take a sabbatical one day to see how a college lacrosse program is run. But for now he plans to keep pushing Landon to new heights. "He has scaled the mountain to the very pinnacle," Joyce says. "But he's a guy who gets right back to business. He doesn't dwell on his past successes."

By Louis Jacobson '92

Louis Jacobson played three varsity sports at Landon School - but not lacrosse.


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Sports Shorts

The women's fencing team won its third straight Ivy League championship after sweep-ing Yale and Harvard on February 24. Those victories guaranteed the Tigers a share of the title, but Princeton became outright champion after Columbia fell to Penn.

The women's swimming and diving team also garnered an Ivy championship. The Tigers won the league title last year as well. Seven members of the squad earned first-team All-Ivy honors. They are Erin Lutz '01, Sangeeta Puri '01, Kate Conroy '02, Valeria Kukla '02, Molly Seto '03, Chrissy Holland '03, and Lauren Rossi '04. Katherine Mattison '02, Ann-Marie Casperite '02, and Sarah Fraumann '04 earned second-team honors.

The men's track and field squad won a fourth consecutive Heps title and finished fourth at the IC4A Track and Field Championships. Eight members of the team, including Tora Harris '02, Ryan Smith '02, Tensai Asfaw '01, Scott Denbo '01, Jon Jessup '01, Josh McCaughy '04, Rob Hulick '04, and Colin Brown '04, earned first-team All-Ivy honors. Josh Kaulke '04, Javius Wynn '03, John Karakoulakis '03, Jim Murphy '02, and Paul Gallup '01 were second-teamers. In addition to first-team status, Harris was named Mid-Atlantic Male Indoor Athlete of the Year for his efforts in the high jump.

On the women's track side, 800-meter runner Lauren Simmons '02 was named to the All-Ivy indoor track and field first team. Simmons was also part of the mile relay team that garnered second-team honors. And Oksana Cheeseman joined the women's track and field team as an assistant coach. Cheeseman, who placed third in the shot put at the European Junior Championships in 1994, will tutor the team's throwers.

For the first time in 10 years, Princeton had a presence at the NCAA wrestling championships. Ryan Bonfiglio '01, Juan Venturi '02, and Greg Parker '03 qualified for the NCAA tournament after competing at the EIWA championships on March 3-4.

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