At about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night, the Penn women's basketball team sat at a table on the Palestra floor, jubilantly autographing promotional T-shirts and posters for young fans. But five minutes earlier, the atmosphere was far more tense, as the Quakers (14-5, 6-0 Ivy League) pulled out an overtime thriller against Dartmouth (7-13, 3-4), 81-75, to take a stranglehold on the Ancient Eight race. Penn swept its second consecutive Ivy weekend, as the Quakers defeated Harvard (8-12, 5-2) on Friday night, 65-51. The pair of victories extends the Red and Blue's program-record winning streak to 13 games. And coupled with two Brown losses, the Quakers now hold a two-game advantage over Harvard in the loss column and are three games ahead of the Bears in the conference standings. Last weekend, the Quakers won two vastly different games, again demonstrating their versatility. They have shown themselves to be able to win defensive struggles, as well as more offense-oriented contests, and have a knack to come from behind in either scenario. All the while, though, the Red and Blue have played with confidence. "Winning is contagious, and feeling good about ourselves is contagious," Penn coach Kelly Greenberg said. The weekend did not look very promising for Penn at the outset, but a sloppy first few minutes for both teams translated into a disastrous first half for Harvard, particularly. In a period reminiscent of pre-shot clock days, Penn took a 23-13 lead into the locker room, after it held the Crimson scoreless for 7:06 at one point. "I said to my assistants, 'I've never seen [Harvard] play this bad,'" Greenberg said of her opponent's first-half performance. Both offenses improved their play early in the second half, yet Penn still managed to extend its lead to 43-26 with 8:45 remaining. But Harvard would heat up from three-point range late in the game, after misfiring on its first 13 attempts from downtown. The Crimson cut the lead to 50-46 with 2:59 left to play. The Quakers, though, pulled away because of their success at the foul line. Penn senior Diana Caramanico finished 9-for-11 from the stripe, while fellow co-captain Erin Ladley went 10-for-11. "I think it's huge at the end of the game like that," Ladley said of her team's clutch free-throw shooting. And although the game was not played with great flair, nor was it very clean, the bottom line was winning. "Tonight was one of those games that was ugly," Greenberg said. "But even when it's ugly, you still have to win somehow." On Saturday night, the two teams played more crisply, but Penn ran into some first-half difficulty against Dartmouth, as the Big Green led 32-24 at the break. Penn, however, was able to just about erase its deficit in a matter of 4:30, when Ladley hit a three-pointer from straight away to make it 37-35. The senior guard's shot would become the centerpiece of a 19-3 Quakers run to open the half in the first 6:03. Before Dartmouth could blink, its eight-point lead had evaporated into an eight-point Penn advantage, 43-35. "[Coach Greenberg] lit a fire under us," said Penn junior Julie Epton, who scored six points during the run and wound up with 18 on the night. The Big Green would close the gap, though, and even carried a 68-67 lead into the final minute of regulation. With 11 seconds remaining, the Quakers worked the ball to Caramanico, who banked in a lay-up for two of her 26 points, giving Penn a 69-68 lead. But controversy ensued on Dartmouth's last possession, when Penn's Jewel Clark was called for fouling Stephanie Kinnear. The 923 in attendance booed the official's call, and Greenberg was beside herself. "I thought the girl plundered over us," she said. "And then to call a foul with no time left -- that's just unbelievable to me." But Kinnear, with the Palestra as loud as it has been all season for a women's game, missed her first free throw. She connected on the second to send the game to overtime, knotted at 69. The Quakers would prevail in the extra session, again due mainly to free throws. And as she did last week at Yale, Ladley led the way by scoring six of her team's 12 overtime points, while dishing out one of her career-high 13 assists. With the victory, the Quakers picked up perhaps the biggest victory of the season by knocking off three-time defending champion Dartmouth. "They've won the league so many times," Caramanico said of the Big Green. "No matter what their record is, you know they're going to try to continue that tradition."Comments powered by Disqus
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