Penn basketball fans worried about missing out on the NCAA Tournament this year can put their fears aside.
With Jewel Clark once again leading the way and a noisy, high-pitched Palestra crowd cheering every basket, the Quakers women clinched the 2004 Ivy League championship, defeating Dartmouth, 78-61.
Although the game was played at a frenetic pace for all 40 minutes, both teams struggled to score early, resulting in a 13-13 scoreline with 8:47 to go in the first half. But Penn was finally able to crack the game open from there, as three-pointers from senior guard Mikaelyn Austin and junior guard Cat Makarewich were the first of the Quakers' points in the rest of the half, compared to the Big Green's 12. The Big Green shot a miserly 23 percent from the field in the first half, and only 37.5 percent for the game – including 23.5 percent shooting from three-point range.
Penn expanded the lead to 11 points 1:37 into the second half when junior guard Amanda Kammes found Clark for a layup and two of the Waldorf, Md., native's game-high 23 points on the night. Dartmouth cut the lead back to five points at the 11:55 mark, but the Red and Blue were back up by double digits just over two minutes later and never looked back on the way to securing the first automatic berth in this year's NCAA Tournament.
As the players took turns cutting down pieces of the net, coach Kelly Greenberg reflected on an outstanding season which brought an Ancient Eight title in women's basketball for the Palestra for only the second time ever.
"I'm really, really happy for this group," she said. "Jewel and Mik [Austin] as seniors, Karen [Habrukowich], Amanda [Kammes], Cat [Makarewich], all the juniors, they just stick together, they're great friends, they're great teammates. If I was going to play college basketball, I would want to play with them."
For Clark and Austin, it was about concluding their Penn careers the same way they began – with a championship. Fitting, then, that they shared a seat atop the rim of the Palestra's west basket, despite it being more than the usual burden placed upon the orange iron by championship celebrations.
"It's scary up there!" Clark said. "It was really starting to bend with both of us up there so I didn't know if it was going to break away or what."
Austin was somewhat more sentimental.
"I forgot how good this felt," she said. "I want to do it every year."
Meanwhile, the larger-than-usual crowd– comprised mostly of area youth basketball teams and friends and family of team members – had made its way down onto the court to share in the celebrations.
"I know I had about 50 family members here," Greenberg said. "Every girl on the team had their family except one and that's coming from everywhere in the country. The family support with this team has been tremendous all year long."
That year just got a few weeks longer.Comments powered by Disqus
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