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Penn women's basketball sophomore Kayla Padilla has not let the pandemic slow her down — both on and off the court.

Credit: Gary Lin

Over the weekend, Penn women’s basketball put on a show in Los Angeles at the Loyola Marymount Thanksgiving Classic. In two hard-fought battles, the Quakers were able to secure a 60-55 win over the University of California San Diego (2-4) but fell 73-68 to the University of Memphis (6-1) in overtime.

The Quakers’ overall record now stands at 4-2.

The team opened game one against UCSD with dazzling offense. Penn's first 12 points of the game were scored off of three-pointers alone — two by senior guard Nikola Kovacikova, one by senior forward Kennedy Suttle, and one by senior guard Mia Lakstigala. 

Heading into the second quarter, the Quakers had a strong 20-8 lead. Layups by Suttle and junior guard and Southern California native Kayla Padilla extended Penn’s run to 21 unanswered points. But by the end of the second quarter, however, UCSD had cut the team’s lead down to eight points.

At halftime, the Quakers led 26-18. Lakstigala led the team with seven points, and Penn was shooting for 38%, compared to UCSD’s 15%.

Lakstigala continued to shine offensively early in the third quarter. However, the star of the second half was sophomore forward Jordan Obi. Her 20-point, 10-rebound game registered her second double-double of the season.

“Jordan’s a super talented player,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “She’s athletic, she’s quick off her feet, and she’s got good basketball instincts.”

After slowly chipping away at Penn’s lead, UCSD got its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter with a little over seven minutes of ball game left. Penn rallied back with eight unanswered points, including a three-point jumper by Padilla, her first and only of the game.

The final minute of play included a layup by Obi and four successful free throws from Padilla, Lakstigala, and Kovacikova to secure the win for the Red and Blue.

Although Saturday’s game against the Memphis Tigers also consisted of a stellar offensive performance, Penn was unable to come out of overtime victorious.

Padilla scored a career-high 36 points — comprising nine three-pointers, breaking the previous program record of seven three-pointers in a single game. Padilla, who hails from Torrance, Calif., also contributed five assists, four rebounds, and a steal.

“The one that was special [on Saturday] was Kayla," McLaughlin said. “We had set up this tournament a couple years ago when Kayla decided to come to Penn from Los Angeles. To bring her back home and put that type of performance on in front of family members and friends was pretty spectacular.”

Scoring opened with a jumper by Padilla a minute into gameplay. She’d go on to record eight points in the quarter, including a three-point jumper with 37 seconds left on the clock to put the Quakers up by one. However, a layup by the Tigers soon restored Memphis’ lead.

Back-and-forth baskets in the first quarter prevented either team from taking a lead with a margin larger than two. 

Heading into the second quarter down by one, the Quakers’ offense needed to come up big. They did just that.

Padilla nearly doubled her point total in the second quarter, scoring 14, with four baskets from beyond the arc. The largest lead of the game came after a jump shot from junior guard Mandy McGurk, which put the Red and Blue up by 10. 

Memphis cut the Quakers’ lead down to single digits, but the 18-point quarter put Penn ahead 33-29 at halftime.

Other Quakers followed in Padilla’s footsteps for the third quarter. Freshmen guards Marianna Papazoglou and Lizzy Groetsch combined for seven points while Obi put up five.

“We had some bench players that, for the first time, got into the 10-15-minute range,” McLaughlin said. “I thought they all handled themselves really well.”

The second half remained an intense, back-and-forth affair. The teams found themselves tied on four separate occasions. 

With 16 seconds left on the clock, it seemed like Padilla’s eighth three-pointer of the night, which put Penn up 60-59, would seal the deal. But an unfortunate personal foul in the final second of regulation sent the Tigers to the line.

After hitting one of two free throws, Memphis sent Penn to its first overtime game this season. The Quakers’ offense came up short and was outscored 13-8, as they were unable to secure the overtime win. 

“Memphis is a little bit bigger — a little bit more athletic,” McLaughlin said. “We tried to condense the court as much as we [could], but it wasn’t enough.” 

Settling for one win in its West Coast trip, Penn women’s basketball returns to the Palestra on Tuesday, Nov. 30, to face off against La Salle (3-3).

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