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For the third straight game, Jewel Clark led the Quakers in scoring. [Jacques-Jean Tiziou/DP File Photo]

With 3:28 left in last night's contest, sophomore Jewel Clark limped to the foul line and sunk a free throw, capping a Jordan-esque run in which she singlehandedly brought the Penn women's basketball team from down nine to within one of intra-city rival La Salle in barely over a minute.

Clark was carrying the team on her back -- the Quakers now trailed, 59-58 -- just like Penn coach Kelly Greenberg had done so many times on the same floor as the starting point guard for the Explorers from 1985-1989. (Greenberg led La Salle to three Big 5 championships and three NCAA tournament berths in her playing career.)

But, on this night, the solid play of La Salle's veterans would win out over Clark's late-game heroics and game-high 23 points.

The Explorers survived the late scare, holding on to defeat Penn, 74-69, in front of 475 fans at the Tom Golan Arena in North Philadelphia.

"It was a very, very tough loss," Penn senior tri-captain Julie Epton said. "We didn't come out with the intensity that we needed to have. We might have ended with it, but we didn't start with it."

Epton, however, did come out strong. She scored six of the Quakers' first eight points to finish the first half with 10 of her 20 points on 5-of-6 shooting, all despite enduring considerable pain still lingering from summer surgery on her shins.

"I thought Julie played well from the get-go," Greenberg said. "She's in a lot of pain but she's a team player and she did everything for us tonight."

Clark and Epton could not win the game alone, though, and the Quakers did not get solid production from their other players.

In fact, upperclassmen starters Ima Abia, Jennifer Jones and Tara Twomey did not score a point in last night's game and combined to shoot 0-for-10 from the field.

Certainly, the Explorers' defense contributed to Penn's offensive woes. La Salle gave up 90 points in a loss to St. Francis (N.Y.) on Saturday, and used that poor defensive effort as motivation to stop the Quakers' attack last night.

"We obviously played like 100 percent better defense than we did on Saturday," La Salle coach John Miller said.

Still, the Quakers dug their own graves in the first half by committing 10 turnovers and allowing 14 points off of these mishaps, while not capitalizing on any of the Explorers' five turnovers. Penn trailed at the half, 29-25.

"Obviously, we lost the game in the first half," Greenberg said.

But the second half is when the Quakers really had to play catch-up, as La Salle jumped out to a 14-point lead with 12:48 to play and led by 13 with 5:43 left.

The Explorers' second-half surge was led largely by senior guard Suzanne Keilty, who bucketed 13 of her 14 points in the second half and drained two quick three-pointers right after the intermission to put La Salle up 12 just over three minutes in.

Senior forward Beth Hudak was a consistent force in the middle for the Explorers, finishing with 17 points, 11 boards and six assists. Junior guard Bonnie Randa added 13 points for La Salle.

Clutch foul-shooting ultimately sealed the win for the Explorers, as the Quakers got within four with 31 seconds left, but had to foul. La Salle converted its last seven attempts from the charity stripe.

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