BOSTON -- The Penn fans in attendance for Saturday's game decorated Section 2 of Harvard's Lavietes Pavilion with red and blue balloons, anticipating a celebration by the night's end. And the Quakers (19-5, 11-0 Ivy League) delivered, just as they have in each of their last 18 games, by beating the Crimson (10-14, 7-4), 62-57, to clinch the 2000-2001 Ivy League championship. Penn captured its first-ever conference title in grand style over the weekend, knocking off Dartmouth, 59-55, to eliminate the third place Big Green (10-14, 6-5) from contention on Friday night before ousting second-place Harvard on Saturday. "They're so happy, and they deserve every little bit so much," Penn coach Kelly Greenberg said of her team. The road trip began on a rather ominous note for Penn, when their team bus was slowed by a snowstorm and the team was then forced to stay overnight in Springfield, Mass., before reaching Dartmouth. But in the game against the Big Green, the Red and Blue showed little travel-related fatigue. Penn forward Diana Caramanico scored 17, while two-guard Erin Ladley notched 11 of her 18 points in the last 1:09 of the contest, to ensure a victory. Everything then fell into place the following night for the Quakers against Harvard in what was a sharply and emotionally played game by both teams. In addition to locking up the club's initial berth in the NCAA Tournament, Penn's two senior co-captains achieved individual milestones. With 7:48 remaining in the first half, Ladley banked in a jumper from the left side to give her 1,001 career points. With the bucket, she became the 13th player in Penn history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. And Caramanico enjoyed a 30-second stint in the second half in which she tied and then surpassed Harvard's Allison Feaster as the Ivy League's all-time leading scorer. The two-time player of the year equaled Feaster's 2,312 points by converting a lay-up on a fast-break with 13:13 left to play. She broke the record at the 12:43 mark by sinking a short jump shot. The two baskets were part of a 6-0 personal run by Caramanico, which brought Penn back from a 45-43 deficit to give the Quakers a 49-45 lead. Penn would never trail again after that point. "No matter what, Di finds a way to lead this team," Greenberg said of her star's ability to succeed despite being triple-teamed for most of the night against Harvard. "She'll go down as the leading Ivy League scorer in history, and I hope it stays that way for a long time." The game on Saturday night began as a seesaw affair for the first 10 minutes of the opening half. Penn took advantage of some hot shooting early on from Ladley and junior forward Julie Epton, while Harvard hung tight thanks to effective play from its three-point specialists. Freshman forward Tricia Tubridy closed the half 3-for-3 from three-point range, while the Crimson as a team connected on seven of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Tubridy's third three-pointer came with just two seconds to go in the first half and cut Penn's lead at the break to 34-33. Penn would expand its margin to as many as eight early in the second half before the Crimson made their move, reeling off 10 consecutive points to claim a 45-43 advantage. That's when Caramanico went to work. While the Quakers have typically used a balanced offensive attack in their program-record 18-game winning streak, Penn showed on Saturday that you can be just as successful by relying on your stars to carry the team in important stretches. After Penn sophomore forward Jennifer Jones opened second-half scoring with a three from straight away to put Penn up, 37-33, Caramanico and Ladley combined to score the Quakers' next 24 points. For a period of 19:34, no other Red and Blue player would score. Freshman guard Jewel Clark tallied Penn's last point by hitting a free throw with 16 seconds remaining to give the Quakers a comfortable 62-57 lead. Whenever Harvard closed the gap and looked poised to regain the lead, it was either Caramanico or Ladley who made the big play. "I can't say enough about the two of them," Greenberg said. "They're unbelievable." In one of the most important sequences, the Crimson had possession, down 57-55, but Caramanico came up with a steal and then hit a critical basket at the other end. In the last two minutes, when Penn seemed to have a firm handle on both the game and the championship, Quakers fans who had made the trip to Boston jubilantly erupted in a chant of "Ivy champs." At the final buzzer, Penn players leaped in the air and piled onto each other at center court, and when they got back, they formed a circle in front of the Quakers bench, echoing the fans' cheers from a few minutes prior. "It's just an awesome feat for our program," Ladley said following the celebration.Comments powered by Disqus
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