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Freshman guard Kayla Padilla scored 24 points and made six threes in the Quakers' victory over Stetson.

Credit: Son Nguyen

The Quakers have proven to be quite comfortable at home.

Penn women’s basketball ensured its perfect home record would remain intact heading into winter break with a resounding 81-41 win over Stetson on Saturday. 

Both teams were coming off big victories, with Penn (7-1) beating La Salle, 65-49, and Stetson (4-5) demolishing Florida National, 80-37. However, it was clear shortly after the opening tip that the Quakers were destined to win with ease. 

Right from the get-go, Penn utilized a full-court press to prevent the Hatters from getting a rhythm early in the game. Its combination of well-timed double-teaming and defensive help forced the Stetson ball handlers into picking up the ball and attempting long passes down the court. As a result, the Hatters could not get into their groove and run half-court set plays, and 11 of their 27 total turnovers were committed in the first period. 

The Quakers sought to move the ball around on offense, with players rarely dribbling unless to penetrate the Hatters’ defense. This led to great scoring opportunities for Penn’s shooters, especially along the three-point line, where the Quakers shot 6-for-10 in the first quarter. 

Freshman guard Kayla Padilla picked up where she left off, following a 24-point outing at the Explorers by pacing the team with 10 in the first. Guards Phoebe Sterba and Michae Jones, the only two other Quakers to score in the quarter, chipped in with eight and six, respectively.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Freshman guard Kayla Padilla.

The Red and Blue kept their defensive intensity going in the second quarter. Stetson struggled to deal with the Quakers’ tenacity and athleticism, and was forced into making tough contested shots with the shot clock winding down. It shot 2-for-12 in the quarter and only got on the board with 1:27 to go, courtesy of a jumper banked in by forward Day'Neshia Banks.

Compounding on the Hatters’ offensive stagnation was their inability to retreat on missed shots, which Penn took advantage of by constantly looking ahead for fastbreak outlets. In the second period, the Quakers outscored the Hatters, 20-4, and went into the break ahead, 44-17. Padilla continued her hot streak by hitting three threes, giving her 19 at the half — two more than the entire Hatters’ point tally. She would finish with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting in just 24 minutes.

The second half was largely uneventful. However, with 5:56 to go in the third, the Palestra crowd went silent as Sterba went down hard chasing a loose ball and clutched her knee in pain. Fortunately for the Quakers, she was able to walk unassisted back to the locker room, from which she emerged and returned to the bench shortly after.

“It was just kind of like an awkward motion,” Sterba said. “[The Stetson player] kind of just clipped me but I’ve got ice, got treatment, so everything’s good.”

The injury, while unexpected, makes relevant the idea of resting starters in blowout games.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Senior guard Phoebe Sterba.

“Load management is a new word we all talk about,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I’ve been in this for a really long time, and the reality is, I take care of these kids in practice so they can compete hard in games. I think it’s just having them take care of their bodies, we have great facilities there to help that. And as coaches we [have] to make sure that when it’s gameday, they’re well-conditioned to play 40 minutes.”

The Quakers’ bench, entering the game midway through the third, did not skip a beat. An and-one layup by senior center Emily Anderson stretched Penn’s lead to 60-25, although she missed the ensuing free throw. Anderson was a force down low as she tallied 10 points, on 5-of-6 shooting, and three blocks. On the contrary, it was a quiet night for fellow center Eleah Parker, who scored two points and grabbed one rebound, but did contribute four blocks.

On her dominant interior performance, Anderson credits her teammates for constantly finding her and putting the ball in her hands.

“It’s 100% interaction between the post and the guards,” she said. “Our guard game was amazing this game. They just had the awareness of where everyone was on the court. They [found] the post in transition and when we’re posting, [they gave] us the ball at the right opportunities.”

Next up for the Red and Blue is a home meeting Drexel on Dec. 20. With close to a two-week layoff, it will be interesting to see how the team looks as it gets closer to beginning of Ivy League play.