On a rainy Friday, most students were getting started on their spring break plans, en route to warmer climes. But inside the Palestra, Penn women’s basketball had unfinished business.
The Quakers needed revenge against Princeton following their 55-40 loss to the Tigers on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But they couldn't get it, as the Quakers lost 71-52 in the last game of the regular season.
Before the game, five seniors — guard Mandy McGurk, center Faye Parker, guard Sydnei Caldwell, forward Silke Milliman, and guard Kayla Padilla — were honored for Senior Night on the court alongside their families before their last home game at the Palestra.
And for Padilla, Friday also held a chance at history. Already holding the career and single-game three-point records, she was one short of the single-season record as well, currently held by Mandy West from the 1999-2000 season.
The ceremonies continued into the game, too, with coach Mike McLaughlin starting all five seniors.
There was "zero regret, that was a very easy decision [to start all five seniors]," McLaughlin said. "We have five seniors, especially four of them who have been with this program for four years, and they've given so much [and] they've earned the right."
It didn’t take long for the Quakers (17-10, 9-5 Ivy) to score the game’s first points, as Parker – in her first start of the year despite 17 appearances off the bench — made a layup off a feed from Padilla. Overall, Parker finished the game with five points in 14 minutes of play.
After 10 minutes, Penn led 17-12. Throughout the first quarter, the Quakers held Princeton (21-5, 12-2 Ivy) to just 3-13 shooting. Penn relentlessly chased the Tigers around the floor, and only Princeton’s 6-6 mark from the charity stripe was keeping them in the game.
Starring for Penn in the period, just like she had all season long, was Padilla, who had eight points — including a record-tying triple — in the period.
In the second quarter, junior forward Jordan Obi carried much of the offensive burden with seven points and three rebounds, and also made an excellent pass to McGurk in the corner, who drained it with under three minutes left in the half.
For the Tigers, outside of Kaitlyn Chen, it seemed that they could muster little on offense. But it didn’t seem to matter as Chen scored 20 in the first two quarters on 7-8 shooting from the field. And so at halftime, Penn only led by two.
"She's a tough guard for anyone, and I thought we let her get anywhere on the floor she wanted,” McLaughlin said. "I think she did a really good job getting [to her spots] and she did her thing."
But after the break, nothing seemed to be going Penn’s way. The Quakers turned the ball over six times in an 11-0 Princeton run during the third quarter’s first four minutes, forcing McLaughlin to call two timeouts in rapid succession.
But it seemed to have little effect; by the time the period was over, the Tigers led by 18. Penn only made three field goals, compared to 12 turnovers. And on the other end, Princeton shot 11-20 from the field while committing no turnovers of its own. The Tigers outscored Penn 27-7 in the third, and the Quakers trailed by 18 with 10 minutes to play.
"We just had too many open-court turnovers in the third quarter," McLaughlin said. "You can't play a quality team like that and have [double-digit] turnovers in a quarter and expect anything other than that ... really got outplayed in that third quarter and we paid the price."
In the fourth quarter, the blunders continued, preventing Penn from making much of a comeback. Despite their offense showing a few more signs of life — scoring 14 points in the period — and Princeton cooling off with only 6-18 shooting, the Quakers were unable to make much of a dent in Princeton’s lead.
With 46 seconds left, McLaughlin subbed out his seniors, allowing them to get one last standing ovation from the Palestra crowd.
But while Penn’s loss Friday is unfortunate, and the whole team would have liked for its last regular season game to end in a win, the Quakers’ season isn’t over yet. The team is headed for Ivy Madness next weekend in a fitting location: Princeton.
Princeton now wins at least a share of the Ivy League regular season championship. There, the team has a good chance to play the Quakers, perhaps with an Ivy League Tournament Championship on the line. And as they say, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
"We're going to take a look at this film and see what adjustments we can make," McLaughlin said. "We'll probably put some wrinkles in [since after] two times now, I think we'll have to find another way to generate some offense ... obviously a week from now, we have to be better."