On Saturday night at the Palestra, Penn women’s basketball celebrated the careers of its four seniors, and throughout the game that followed, the Quakers never needed to stop their celebration.
On Senior Night, the Red and Blue easily dispatched Yale, 59-33, to win their seventh consecutive contest and clinch an NIT postseason berth.
“Coming in as a freshman … [the seniors] have been so welcoming,” freshman forward Michelle Nwokedi said. “It’s sad to see them go, but I’m glad we could get the win for them.”
“It was all about the culmination of what [the seniors] have given to the program,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “It was a terrific night.”
With all four seniors – including Kathleen Roche, Renee Busch, Kara Bonenberger and Katy Allen – the sizable crowd was into the game from the get-go. And the energy in the Cathedral of College Basketball only increased when Allen and Roche got the first two buckets of the game for the Red and Blue (18-7, 9-2 Ivy).
“It was good, off the first play I made that basket, which helped,” Allen said with a laugh. “I was a little freaked out.”
The Quakers used a balanced offensive attack to take a double-digit lead just about midway through the first half. At halftime, Penn was up by 15. The result of the contest was never in doubt.
“Our team did such a great job of being so focused,” Allen said. “Even changing the starting lineup, when people came in they were ready to go just like if they had started. It was just a great atmosphere.”
The Bulldogs (12-14, 6-6) played with a lot of energy, but much like Brown on Friday night, they were simply unable to matchup with the relative frontcourt size and backcourt quickness of the Red and Blue.
All of the seniors made solid contributions to the win, particularly Bonenberger – who notched five assists – and Allen – who continued her recent streak of strong play with a six-point, eight-board performance.
With 2:30 remaining and the game essentially in the books, all four were taken out of the game to an enthusiastic round of applause.
The seniors may have provided the emotional crux of the night’s story, but the Penn underclassmen were largely responsible for expanding Penn’s lead.
Nwokedi – who has been a force in the paint for the Quakers of late – flat-out dominated, notching a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds on an insanely efficient seven shot attempts.
“I was just really focused,” she said. “I really wanted to get these seniors a win, because they deserve it.”
Sophomore Sydney Stipanovich chipped in with 12 points, eight boards and two blocks of her own, while freshman Beth Brzozowski provided instant energy, dropping seven points and dishing out four assists.
“Offensively, we’ve been really clicking, moving the ball really well, finding each other,” Allen said. “I feel like we didn’t do that the first half of the season, but we’re finally getting our groove with the freshmen mixing with the upperclassmen.”
The night didn’t go perfectly for the Quakers; another win by undefeated No. 14 dealt a significant blow to Penn’s hopes of repeating as Ivy champion. However, the Quakers’ victory did ensure a WNIT bid and third-straight postseason appearance.
“Obviously, our goal was the top,” McLaughlin said. “But we understand, we’re just going to compete. And to clinch a WNIT bid is pretty cool.”
Penn’s seniors have not played their final game at the Palestra – they face Princeton at home on March 10. But first, they will head up to Columbia and Cornell for their final Ivy doubleheader next weekend.Comments powered by Disqus
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