The singing of “The Red and Blue” was a cheerful one on Saturday afternoon as Penn women’s basketball secured a 79-54 victory over Dartmouth in the team’s final home game of the regular season.
The seniors did not disappoint on their special day, with one of the most magical moments happening when senior guard Meg Hair assisted two three-pointers in the first three minutes, and then scored one of her own just moments later.
After suffering an injury during the Red and Blue scrimmage back in early November, Hair has been nursing a torn ACL from the bench.
“Words honestly can’t describe how amazing that felt,” Hair said. “Looking at my teammates and them all just swarming me, it just felt amazing.”
Saturday’s senior night was Hair’s first time seeing significant minutes on the floor all season after making a brief appearance in early February against Columbia. Joining her teammates in the starting lineup to celebrate Senior Day was made possible by her decision to put off surgery. Her three-pointer became the senior captain’s first points on the season — better late than never.
Coach Mike McLaughlin’s comments on Hair were nothing short of praise.
“I just thought [the three-pointer] was awesome, I can’t wait to go back and watch it,” McLaughlin said. “I love the win, I love these kids, but for that story and for her ride, she can leave Penn like, ‘I did all the right things.’”
After the Red and Blue were quick to snag the lead, the team held the lead above Dartmouth, with the Palestra guests unable to put a score on the board until five minutes in.
With time winding down to the final minute in the first quarter, junior guard Kayla Padilla got in one last three. Coupled with a step-back jump shot by sophomore forward Jordan Obi, the team concluded the first quarter up by 15 points.
The Quakers held their opponent to just 11 points in the first quarter. Although Dartmouth’s scoring steadily picked up as the game went on, Penn carried a lead Dartmouth was unable to touch.
The second quarter continued in the tight grip of Penn's dominant momentum.
Heading in the second half, the Quakers were shooting 57% — one of the best success rates the team has seen all season.
“Our coach really harps on our defensive end,” Hair said. “Us communicating and just being disciplined, not following, has really flowed into our offense.”
Big names like senior guard Mia Lakstigala, Obi, and Padilla continued to rain in the threes, but as the game went on, players off the bench also helped out significantly.
Freshman guard Stina Almqvist had a seven-point contribution while junior forward Silke Milliman made an eight-point impact. Junior guard Mandy McGurk scored an electrifying buzzer-beating jumper putting the team up 68-44 heading into the final quarter of the game.
Cheers from the crowd roared with a minute and a half left on the clock when McLaughlin subbed in Hair, Lakstigala, senior forward Kennedy Suttle, and senior guard Nikola Kovacikova to take the court together. It was all smiles and tearful embraces meeting their teammates and coaches at the bench.
“We’ve been here since freshman year,” Hair said. “Just being able to come off the court together as one not only meant the world to me, but to all these girls and our parents as well.”
Penn’s record improves to a game above .500 in the conference (12-13, 7-6) as Dartmouth’s stoops even lower (3-22, 2-11).
With Saturday’s win, boosting the Quakers to fourth in Ivy League standings, the team now holds the final spot which advances them to the Ivy Tournament. But with Harvard looming just half a game behind, the Red and Blue’s next game is one they can’t afford to lose.
“We’ll do our film, we’ll do our practices,” Hair said, “but really just playing for one another and having a lot of confidence — hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”
In the final chapter of the 2021-2022 regular season, Penn women’s basketball will take on the Princeton Tigers, who currently sit at the top of Ivy League standings with a perfect conference record. It’s a game you won’t want to miss.