With the great unknown of the regular season on the horizon, Penn’s basketball teams made some of their final preparations by facing off against some familiar faces: each other.
Both the men and women’s basketball teams participated in the intra-squad Red and Blue Scrimmages on Saturday. For both teams, it will be the last public action before their respective seasons officially begin, with the men opening at Iona on Nov. 7 and the women tipping off at Marist on Nov. 10.
The Blue team emerged with the victory in both outings. The women’s Blue Team dispatched the Red Team 48-38, and the men’s Blue Team won 39-29. Neither game will count toward season records, but as the teams ready themselves for the season ahead, facing off against teammates in a more structured context than practice is a nice final tune-up.
For women's basketball, there was a familiar standout in the contest. Senior guard Kayla Padilla was dominant early, getting off to a quick start with a tough layup and two threes in the first few minutes. That was no surprise for those familiar with the 5-foot-9 dynamo, who has been selected first team All-Ivy in each collegiate season she has played.
Padilla’s day ended early, though, as the second half saw her occupying a place near the end of the bench, icing her knee, and cheering on her teammates.
Throughout the game, the only sound heard more than the bouncing of the ball on the hardwood was the sound of teammates talking to one another. On both sides of the ball, vocal communication was a clear point of emphasis for the Quakers, as they filled the court with the sound of their defensive call-outs and offensive play calls.
Playing in such a cohesive manner was the driving force behind the most impressive aspect of both Red and Blue’s performance: ball movement. They worked hard to get the ball into open spots and frequently made the extra pass to get the best look possible on every possession. One beneficiary of this crisp passing was freshman guard Simone Sawyer, who nailed two catch-and-shoot triples in the first half. She finished with 13 points on 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
At times, Penn’s playmaking ambition proved costly. On several occasions, they fired passes up the court on the fast break, only to have them deflected and transformed into an opportunity for the opposing team.
Conversely, the men’s teams were not quite as effective in the half-court, but found great success in transition. Many of the players are comfortable with the ball in their hands, and they are capable of directing traffic on the offensive end, often leading to big plays when it’s time to get out and run.
One player who undeniably contributes to that effort is men’s sophomore forward-center Nick Spinoso. At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Spinoso’s stature earns him the classification of big man. But his court vision and passing ability are guard-like, making him crucial to ensuring the team is operating on the same page.
“[Passing] can help kind of with controlling the offense, especially with new guys and new faces and new lineups,” Spinoso said. “It’s just about keeping everybody together. I think passing [is] the way basketball should be played.”
With the season so close, having the team coalesce is essential if the Quakers want to make do on their lofty expectations. Coach Steve Donahue said the group has “very few weak links,” and that they continue to ask themselves, “How do we continue to grow every day?”
There is only so much the team can learn about themselves as they tangle with opponents that also have Penn across their chest. But the Red and Blue scrimmages are significant in another way: They mark the only official context in which the groups are split apart. For the rest of the season, they will be one team, one unit, pursuing their shared goal of winning with shared determination.