Penn women’s basketball is back on top and ready for more.
After thoroughly defeating Cornell by a score of 67-46 on Friday night, the Quakers picked up their second straight win after dropping their previous two contests. They now sit alone at second in the Ivy League standings, one game ahead of Columbia and Yale in a tie for third.
On Friday in Ithaca, N.Y., junior center Eleah Parker and freshman guard Kayla Padilla racked up 16 points each to lead the Red and Blue (19-7, 9-4 Ivy) in scoring. Over the course of her season, Parker has proven to be a force on both sides of the court and the backbone of the team.
Even as a freshman, Kayla Padilla has proven herself to be unstoppable on the court. Tonight, she and senior guard Phoebe Sterba brought Penn to an 8-3 lead over Cornell (10-15, 3-10) in the first four minutes. Parker followed with back-to-back rim shots, bringing the score to 12-7. By the end of the first quarter, Penn had an 11-point lead at 20-9 after skilled plays by junior guard Michae Jones and senior guard Kendall Grasela.
Even when it looked like Cornell was coming back near the middle of the second quarter, the Quakers’ fast response meant they could keep the lead and continue to open the gap. At halftime, the game was clearly in Penn’s favor with a score of 39-24, but the Quakers continued to show no mercy.
Padilla's speed only helped the Red and Blue sustain their lead, as the rookie put up five points in one 25-second span at the beginning of the third quarter off two fast breaks. The lightning-quick freshman is ranked 20th nationally in points per game, and is the top scorer in the Ivy League.
“It’s really surreal,” Padilla said. “I feel like I came to Penn not too long ago and I’m just really lucky to have the opportunity.”
According to Padilla, the secret to the team’s 19-7 record is trust between teammates.
“One thing I value the most is trust from my teammates and the coaching staff," she said. "Without that trust, I wouldn’t be able to play my game. Without my team, I don’t have the platform to do what I’m here to do.”
In the second half, Padilla helped break a brief scoring drought with an expertly-timed pass to Parker, who converted for two points. After buckets from sophomore forward Kennedy Suttle and Grasela, the score was 53-28 and it looked like curtains for the Big Red.
The deal was sealed by sophomore guard Mia Lakstigala and Parker, whose efforts brought the final score to 67-46, a huge show of dominance for the Quakers.
The win tonight was crucial after losses at Yale and Princeton," Padilla said. “During those two games we had a lot of mental lapses. We learned some good lessons that we can take into the next game and turn them into wins.”
Coming to the close of their season, the team is proud of its accomplishments and is excited for its final regular season game at Columba on Saturday night.
“We’re all super excited for our last game. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Since Columbia is just one game behind Penn, a win would see the Lions jump the Red and Blue due to the Ivy League's tiebreak procedure, so even this final game is critical to determine seeding for Ivy Madness. Yale is currently tied with Columbia and can also jump in with the right result to drop the Quakers to a No. 4 seed and a matchup with top-seeded Princeton.
However, should the Quakers win Saturday night, they can carry that momentum and confidence into the most important weekend of the year.