Women’s basketball knocked out of Ivy with loss at Princeton
PRINCETON, NJ — An early conclusion doesn’t necessarily lessen the grief.
Clinging to fourth place in the conference by the skin of their teeth, Penn’s season finale at Princeton (21-4, 13-0 Ivy) on Friday night was essentially a game to win if the Quakers wanted to make it to the next tournament. the Ivy League. week. If fifth-placed Harvard beat a struggling Dartmouth team – which they were hugely favored – losing to Princeton would eliminate Penn (12-14, 7-7) of discord entirely.
A victory would not be an easy task. The Tigers were undefeated in Ivy League play and played at home with the stands packed with Princeton fans at the Princeton Senior and Fan Appreciation Night.
“It was a big task for us, but I thought we were ready,” said head coach Mike McLaughlin. “I was thinking [the athletes] played prepared.
In his last game at the Palestra, Penn trailed 15 points late in the first quarter before losing the game by 20 points. Penn came out much stronger in this game and kept pace with Princeton’s offense.
Sophomore forward Jordan Obi scored the game’s first points and continued to lead the offense along with junior guard and Ivy League scoring leader Kayla Padilla. Absent from scoring by any non-Obi or Padilla player until the last minute of the quarter, Penn was still able to stay neck and neck with Princeton.
By the end of the Harvard-Dartmouth first quarter, however, the Crimsons were leading by seven points.
“I thought we were done early enough to hang in there. They put on constant game pressure,” McLaughlin said.
The first half of the second quarter also seemed to promise a close game, if not such a big affair, with turnovers coming from both sides. Penn stayed afloat thanks to his perfect 6-on-6 shot from the charity strip and a stifling three-block from junior Silke Milliman.
But Obi and Padilla had their chances severely limited. Obi only had one shot and two free throws, and Padilla had just two field goal attempts the entire quarter. Despite holding a 22-22 tie through the second quarter, turnovers and paint frailties burned Penn hard.
With all of their players, let alone their leading scorers unable even to get scoring chances, the unstable bond the Quakers managed to preserve quickly crumbled. Princeton made a 13-point run to close out the first half, sealed by buzzer-beater Abby Meyers who bounced off the edge several times before falling – a sight that, while less devastating, evoked lesser memories. than enjoyable for Philadelphia sports fans.
The quarter started with Princeton up two points. It ended with Princeton up 11, marking the beginning of the end.
In Hanover, Harvard led by 26 points. Help was unlikely to come from around Dartmouth.
“The last four and a half minutes escaped us. 22-22, 33-22. It hurt us a lot,” McLaughlin said. “We didn’t score, and once we didn’t we weren’t placed defensively. That’s when we lost control of the game.
Opening the third quarter, Penn couldn’t stop the bleeding. Patterns reproduced; Princeton’s lead increased to 19 points, thanks in part to a run led by Grace Stone.
Penn’s scoring was almost entirely limited to Obi, Padilla and senior guard Mia Lakstigala, who tied Padilla in the chances midway through the third. Obi and Padilla were able to get more attacking chances thanks to fewer turnovers.
However, Penn’s attack was not enough. Despite a flurry of offense from Padilla that helped close the gap to 13 points, a three-pointer from Stone closed the third quarter with a 16-point lead for the Tigers.
By the time they entered the fourth quarter, the game looked already lost as Princeton continued to rack up the points. Stone continued to ride the burning hand. Meyers, who finished second in Ivy League scoring, hit a three-pointer to reach 20 points in the game.
Harvard led Dartmouth by more than 30 points. As Princeton’s lead stretched to 20 and the minutes turned into foul weather, Penn’s Ivy League tournament hopes faded. Padilla sat down for the first time in the entire match with just under two minutes left.
Two minutes later, the Quakers’ see-saw season ended, as they fell to the Tigers 69-43.
“It’s hard [to reflect] right now because there are a lot of emotions involved, but we didn’t have all the pieces we needed,” McLaughlin said. “We have to admit it, but we played hard. We have improved. We’re a better basketball team now than a month, two months, three months ago.
So where does Penn go from here? Padilla is a junior and Obi is a sophomore – going forward, Penn can still build around them, and all underclassmen will now have a year of college experience under their belts after missing the entire season last.
But for the seniors – Lakstigala, Kennedy Suttle, Meg Hair and Nikola Kovacikova – this season finale means more than the tournament. It marks the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication to Quakers.
“The amount of time and effort [the seniors] put into our basketball and athletics program – it’s tough, and I think they came out on top,” McLaughlin said. “We want to make this playoffs, they wanted to get in there, and we’re going to miss out. But that part doesn’t have to define everything. … They put their heart and soul into this program and I’ll be forever grateful to them.
The Quakers have no next game to play. All that’s left to do is take a step back, rest, and then come back to do it all again in November.