In their most important stretches of the season, Penn basketball’s two best players certainly rose to the occasion.
Junior forward AJ Brodeur and sophomore center Eleah Parker finished off their stellar regular seasons in a pair of weekend sets over spring break, earning the duo DP Sports Players of the Break.
Parker came into the break with the women (22-5, 12-2 Ivy) having all but clinched a spot in the Ivy League Tournament but still having plenty to play for with a regular season championship on the line. While foul trouble meant the center scored only 10 points in the Quakers’ dramatic overtime victory over Harvard, Parker still contributed on the defensive end with three blocks and a few timely buckets, helping the Red and Blue avenge an earlier loss to the Crimson.
Parker really began to turn it on for the season’s final road trip. With the Quakers needing wins in their final two games to keep pace with Princeton in first, they leaned heavily on their leading scorer. Parker scored a career high 29 points and came one shy of a career high in rebounds with 16 in the Quakers’ win over Yale. Parker followed up on this mammoth performance with 26 points and eight boards against Brown the next night.
The sophomore also continued to serve as the anchor for Penn’s strong defense. After allowing 70 points to Harvard, the Red and Blue allowed no more than 56 points in their final three games. Over this stretch, Parker averaged three blocks per game.
Unlike the women, the men came into the weekend likely needing to win three of their final four games just to make the Ivy League Tournament. In the first of these four against eventual No 1. seed Harvard, Brodeur came to play, scoring 24 points in Penn’s eventual loss to the Crimson. With their backs now fully against the wall, Brodeur once again led the Quakers with 19 points and 13 rebounds, helping them to a season-saving victory over Dartmouth.
After Brown took down Princeton earlier on Friday night, the Quakers returned to the Palestra knowing that wins in their final two games would guarantee them a spot in the Ivy League Tournament, but anything less would eliminate them. In the weekend’s first game against Yale, Brodeur led the Quakers in scoring for the fourth consecutive game with 24 points. The junior also contributed on the defensive end, forcing three early turnovers that would give the Quakers an early lead and help the Red and Blue hold Yale’s potent offense to just 66 points.
After defeating the Elis, Penn ended its season with a winner-take-all matchup against Brown. Playing with the season on the line for the third straight game, Brodeur continued to come up clutch. Working especially well with junior guard Devon Goodman, Brodeur scored 18 in the game, including 13 in the second half, as the Red and Blue punched their ticket to the tourney with a 58-51 victory.
While their performances down the stretch were impressive, Brodeur and Parker have been key players all year for their teams. Both led their respective squads in points, rebounds, and blocks this season, with Brodeur also leading the men in assists.
With both teams now preparing for Ivy League Tournament matchups against Harvard, they will once again look for their key players to step up when the lights are brightest.
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