It’s usually difficult to play with fatigue, but not for Penn women’s basketball.
Friday night, it was junior center Eleah Parker who led Penn to an overtime win. Saturday night, it was senior guard Phoebe Sterba. Sterba helped lead the Quakers to a 63-41 win at the Palestra against Cornell. The Red and Blue have now won three games in a row and are above .500 in conference play.
Back-to-back game nights are physically draining for players, even more so following an overtime game the night before. At times in the first quarter, it was evident that the two games were taking a toll on Penn (13-5, 3-2 Ivy). However, that fatigue was quickly replaced by aggressiveness as their offense got going.
“We were physically fatigued from last night,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “I just wanted them to play as hard as they could, even if they were short runs. I didn’t want to slow the game down; I wanted them to go fast.”
While the physicality required to play is one thing, McLaughlin was also impressed by the mental fortitude his team showed to come out again and play the way they did.
From the very beginning, the Quakers' fast-paced play paid off on the offensive and defensive end. It was clear that Cornell (9-9, 2-4) was uncomfortable with the pace of play, and Penn was able to force 13 turnovers. The Quakers were then able to turn those into 15 points.
Sterba opened up the game with a three-pointer on the first possession of the game, going on to drain six treys in total. With that performance, she moved into a tie for fourth on Penn’s all-time career three-pointers list with 165. Meanwhile, she led all scorers with 22 points and was one point shy of her career-best.
“It definitely feels good to get the first ones in, and it also really helps to open the floor for other teammates,” Sterba said. “It doesn’t only help me, but it also helps my teammates, which is really good too because we have really good scorers on our team.”
While Sterba highlighted the offensive play for the Red and Blue, several players had dominant games to help drive Penn’s offense. Parker followed up her career night with another dominant game, tallying 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Meanwhile, junior forward Tori Crawford was one rebound shy from a double-double, with nine boards and 10 points.
Senior guard Kendall Grasela only tallied six points, but her presence was definitely felt on the court. The co-captain had an all-around game, grabbing four rebounds, three steals, and four assists. At the 7:24 mark in the second quarter, Grasela showed off her dribbling skills as she smoothly dribbled between defenders, putting in the layup and drawing a foul.
“Kendall really did a heck of a job to get us started,” McLaughlin said. “I think that was one of her better performances on both ends of the floor in a really long time.”
Getting to the free-throw line was a big part of Penn’s game on Saturday. Not only were they able to get to the line, they were also successful from it. The Quakers had 19 shots from the charity stripe, making 14 of them.
While the offense for Penn flourished, their defense was able to keep the Big Red off balance and force bad shots. Most importantly, they were able to keep Cornell’s top two scorers this season, senior forward Laura Bagwell-Katalinich and senior guard Samantha Widmann, to a combined 14 points.
The Red and Blue will look to keep the good times rolling on the road next weekend when they face off with Brown and Yale.
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