Penn Quakers

Penn Quakers

BOX SCORE

For the third time in four years, the Penn women's basketball team is going dancing.

And like usual, the Quakers denied Princeton its own NCAA berth in the process.

In the finals of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament on Sunday at the Palestra, Anna Ross scored 17 points and tourney MVP Michelle Nwokedi had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the top-seeded Quakers to a 57-48 win over the rival Tigers to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's been a tremendous ride with this team," Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin said. "It's a celebration they'll remember forever. We've been fortunate enough to win three of the last four Ivy League championships but this one is special because it's on our court. It's something to really cherish forever."

Penn had rolled to the Ivy League championship -- its fifth in program history and third in the last four years -- and capped a 13-1 Ivy League regular season record with a win over Princeton in the same building less than a week ago.

But with the addition of a four-team conference tournament this year, the Quakers had more work to do to return to the Big Dance. And they got the job done by knocking off Brown in Saturday's semifinal before denying Princeton a chance to win two titles in the same day.

The Tigers had won the men's title earlier, beating Yale in the title game a day after rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to stun Penn in the semifinals.

 

But many of the Penn men players were at the Palestra on Sunday to cheer on the women, who danced at center court and cut down the nets in their own gym after knocking off the hated Tigers for the third time this season.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," said standout senior Sydney Stipanovich, the only player to be a part of all three title-winning teams (2014, 2016, 2017). "The last four years have been amazing. I wish I could be here for another four years. I couldn't ask for a better way to end my senior year on the Palestra floor."

After leading by just one through one quarter, the Quakers dominated the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 14-4. Second-seeded Princeton -- which beat Harvard in the semifinals after a 9-5 Ivy regular season -- missed its first 14 baskets of the second quarter as Penn clamped down defensively and took a comfortable 29-18 halftime lead.

Nwokedi drilled two straight three-pointers to start the second half to send the Quakers to a 35-19 advantage, and senior point guard Kasey Chambers (13 points, five assists) made a couple of big threes in the fourth quarter to help fend off a Princeton charge.

"Kasey is a winner," McLaughlin said. "She's got heart, she's got guts, and she is one of the better winners I've ever coached."

Penn will find out where it's going in the NCAA Tournament during the women's selection show Monday evening. The Quakers have never won an NCAA tourney game but had all-time NCAA leading scorer Kelsey Plum and Washington on the ropes in last year's first-round contest before the Huskies stormed to the Final Four.

Penn will likely join Temple as Big 5 women's teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Owls are poised to earn an at-large berth following a 24-7 regular season.

"We're gonna play as long as we can," Stipanovich said. "There's no doubt we can get a win -- or even more."