The Quakers hoped to celebrate their holiday weekend in style, but their plans were spoiled at the very last moment.
At the Navy Classic, Penn women’s basketball split a pair of games against non-conference opponents, defeating Navy 65-61 in a tight contest on Saturday before falling to Maine 47-46 in the final seconds on Sunday.
The first game of the weekend came against the hosts Midshipmen (2-3), and the Red and Blue (4-2) started strong right out of the gates. Impressive offensive play from a variety of Quakers, including sophomore center Eleah Parker, gave them a quick 9-2 run and a 14-5 lead in the first quarter.
Navy quickly clawed back, going on a scoring run of its own to tie the game early in the second quarter. Despite reclaiming the lead and holding it for much of the afternoon, the Red and Blue were unable to pull away from the Midshipmen, as the score mostly remained within single digits.
With senior guard and leading scorer Ashley Russell neutralized by the Navy defense and held to only seven points, Penn needed to find other ways to put points on the board. Sophomore guard Katie Kinum and rookie guard Mia Lakstigala stepped up, scoring eight and seven points in only 15 and nine minutes, respectively.
“We had a couple of players who made outside shots, and that opened up the inside play,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We scored the ball in transition, scored in half-court. I really liked what we did.”
In the end, the Quakers were able to hold on for a four-point win despite a late Navy comeback. Strong play from Parker, who led the team with 15 points, and senior forward Princess Aghayere, who recorded the third double-double of her career with 14 points and 11 rebounds, was just enough for the Red and Blue to defeat the hosts and move on to Sunday with a victory.
“We really played a good game from start to finish, executed at the right time, and really did a lot of good things,” McLaughlin said.
In the second game of the weekend against Maine (5-2), Penn got off to a slow start on the ball. An inability to score put the Quakers behind early until a three-pointer from Kinum, who was once again productive off the bench, gave them a 9-8 lead with less than a minute to go in the first quarter.
“We had some opportunities to get out in transition, and we just didn’t execute well,” McLaughlin said. “We needed to get down the floor a little bit and get their defense unset.”
The Red and Blue kept the advantage for the rest of the opening half, but their offensive struggles continued. While the Quakers held a two-point lead at the end of the second quarter, they were held to just 20 points, the fewest they had scored in a half all season.
“We struggled to score and missed a lot of shots,” McLaughlin said. “Their defensive scheme was very effective, very aggressive.”
Maine took back the lead to start the third quarter, but Penn quickly responded. Two more three-pointers from Kinum, who totaled four on the game, and strong play off the bench from sophomore forward Tori Crawford, who scored nine points and collected six rebounds, helped the Quakers regain their advantage.
However, the Penn offense slowed down once again in the fourth quarter, forcing the game to come down to the final minute. A layup with 10.9 seconds to go from Parker, who recorded 17 points and nine rebounds on the game, gave the Quakers a one-point lead, but a score with 5.5 seconds to go from Maine senior guard Tanesha Sutton, who led the Black Bears with 16 points, put Penn in a 47-46 deficit.
The Red and Blue turned the ball over on their final possession, and a game that they had controlled for much of the afternoon had suddenly turned into a heartbreaking loss.
The defeat took away the momentum that Penn had built over a three-game win streak since its loss to No. 1 Notre Dame on Nov. 12, but the group has an opportunity to bounce back and recover in its last few contests before Ivy play.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.