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Junior forward Iyanna Rogers drives to the rim against Dartmouth on March 1. Credit: Ellie Pirtle

Before the game today, the Penn women's basketball team honored senior forward Jordan Obi for reaching 1,000 career points with a trophy ball. Wanting to honor their teammate themselves, the Red and Blue went out with the intention of giving their senior captain the best gift possible: a chance at an Ivy Title.

Penn, who faced off against bottom-of-the-league Dartmouth, went out and demolished its Ivy foe for the 18th straight time with a 79-41 win. Out working the Big Green (7-17, 1-11 Ivy) from the first minute, the Quakers (14-11, 6-6 Ivy) took care of business and kept their Ivy League title dreams alive.

With the tournament fast approaching and a chance for glory still possible for the Quakers, Penn found itself fighting for the last available spot in the championship tourney. Entering the night tied with Brown for that fourth spot, there was no room for error. 

“We know what each game means in terms of return,” Obi said. "We try to take it one game at a time and really lock in on the moment each possession.”

The match started out with the woman of the night, Obi, dominating on both sides of the ball. With multiple stops against potent Big Green forward Clare Meyers as well as four of Penn's first eight points, Obi perfectly encapsulated what makes her one of the Palestra‘s greatest stars.

“I'm really happy and proud of her … this group being the pandemic group that didn’t really attend Penn the first year,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “She’s come a long way, and she’s playing her best basketball at the right time.”

Building off of Obi, the rest of the team followed suit with a scorcher of a performance in the first quarter. Finishing the frame up 25-5, the Red and Blue showcased their superior size and shooting. Junior forward Stina Almqvist couldn’t miss around the rim as she hit four of four shots while pulling in five rebounds. As Dartmouth found it hard to cut through the trees with Obi, Almqvist, and senior center Floor Toonders on defense, Penn was able to light up the court on offense with a 73.3 field goal percentage.

“The post defense was really good,” Mclaughlin said. “We turned that into offense a little bit, which led to such a good first quarter.”

The second quarter wasn’t any better for the Big Green, as the blowout was officially on. Freshman guard Mataya Gayle decided to join the fun as she poured in shots from across the court while dishing assists out to her teammates below the rim. Almqvist would go on to hit eight straight below the basket for a cool 16 points to start the game as Gayle, and junior guard Lizzy Groetsch, both racked up three assists. As the lead grew, it seemed there wasn’t a singular thing the Quakers could do wrong as they dominated defensively, ending the second quarter up 43-15.

“I think the post killed us the last time at Dartmouth,” Obi said. “Just being sound on our post defense was a big emphasis coming into this game.”

With the win in hand, the Quakers received even better news to open the third quarter. Red-hotColumbia had defeated Brown, giving Penn the chance to pull ahead in the standings if it could secure the win, and secure the win they did.

The rest of the match featured a couple of different all-bench lineups as Dartmouth waved the white flag. A plethora of players finished with impressive stat lines, but it was the teams star trio of Gayle, Almqvist, and — of course — Obi who led the way. Stina and Obi were both just short of double doubles, while Gayle was second in scoring and co-led the team in assists. This impressive victory, while expected, was exactly what the team needed heading into its toughest stretch of the season.

The Quakers final home game of the year comes tomorrow versus third-place Harvard,  and their final game of the year comes exactly one week after that, on the road, against the current leader of the Ivy League No. 25 Princeton. Both these matches will decide if the Red and Blue can get their senior players one last shot at Ivy glory, or if the coaches have to switch focus towards recruiting for next season.

“Once these lights go off tonight, and they come back on tomorrow, we’ll be facing a different animal, a different game,” McLaughlin said. “There’ll probably be a carryover because I want [the game] to be good.”

You can watch the team face off against Harvard tomorrow at home on ESPN+ tomorrow at 5 p.m.