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Freshman center Eleah Parker totalled 15 points and 11 rebounds in Penn's Monday night loss to St. John's in the WNIT.

Credit: Chase Sutton

The Quakers couldn’t quite grind this one out.

Penn women’s basketball lost its second round game against St. John’s in the National Invitational Tournament by a score of 53-48, ending the team’s season.

The game, played at St. John’s, was a back and forth affair the entire time. The Red Storm controlled the first quarter by holding Penn to just eight points and scoring 14 of their own. Penn quickly got back into the game with a more composed second period. 

Senior guard Lauren Whitlatch was the star of the first 20 minutes, scoring 12 points on 4 for 6 shooting from three-point range, as the Quakers took a 24-22 lead into the break.

The second half was just as much of a defensive battle, with both teams struggling to hit shots. St. John’s, despite a poor shooting performance in the third quarter, entered the final period with momentum. Junior guard/forward Akina Wellere nailed a step-back three-pointer with time winding down to give the Red Storm a two-point lead entering the fourth. 

In the final stretch of the contest, it was St. John’s that made more winning plays, and Penn couldn’t quite come back from a 51-43 deficit with 2:25 remaining, despite the team’s great effort. 

Whitlatch nailed a deep three-point shot to make the score 51-48. After an offensive foul by St. John’s with 25 seconds left, the Quakers had one more chance to tie it up. Coach McLaughlin drew up a play to get Whitlatch a three-pointer. The senior guard, who finished with 15 points, was able to get the ball but had to put up a contested jumper that didn’t fall.

After grabbing the rebound, the Red Storm passed the ball up the court and made a layup at the buzzer to put the icing on the cake.

As a team, the Red and Blue had spurts in which it was difficult for them to get anything going on offense. They didn’t shoot terribly from the floor (39.6 percent), but they were unable to put enough pressure on the St. John’s defense for most of the game.

Penn turned the ball over 17 times on Monday night and was unable to come out with a balanced attack, with only Whitlatch, senior forward Michelle Nwokedi, and freshman center Eleah Parker scoring more than five points for the team.

Parker shined in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points in that period and finishing the night with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Michelle Nwokedi added 10 points, eight rebounds, and three assists in her final game in a Red and Blue uniform.

Penn now sends off four seniors, Nwokedi, Whitlatch, Anna Ross, and Beth Brzozowski, all of whom will be sorely missed as the Quakers try to reload for next season.

Penn coach Mike McLaughlin was unavailable for comment after the game.

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