PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/16/2019 – Both teams had an opportunity to play for a championship. Villanova won the Big Five title outright defeating the University of Pennsylvania 58 – 50 at the Palestra. This is the 16th title for the Wildcats and the 10th outright crown. A Philadelphia championship has meaning for Nova.
“It holds so much meaning for us because we are coming off a three-game losing streak, and this will push up our momentum for the rest of the season,” said Villanova guard Kelly Jekot. “Secondly, we get to play in the Palestra four good Big Five teams every year. Not many teams get to do that and to win it is a special feeling.”
Jekot lead Villanova recording her first career double-double scoring 18 points and pulling down a collegiate-best 11 rebounds. After halftime Jekot scored 15 of her points sinking 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
Villanova had to contend with the inside play of Penn center Eleah Parker who set a career-mark with 17 rebounds, and tied her career-high scoring 25 points.
Penn had an early advantage leading 13 – 4 after one quarter. Nova came back to get to within one at halftime. The Quakers held a three-point lead after three quarters.
The fourth quarter saw the Wildcats get hot from distance making 5 of 7 and turned the game in their direction. The Quakers found their shooting percentage dwindle as the game progressed. For the game Nova made 11 of 30 from distance, 21 for 53 overall. The Red and Blue made 20 of 68, 5 for 13 from distance.
It was a classic game of runs. Penn early, Villanova coming back. Penn reestablishing a lead, Villanova taking and holding the lead.
“It is tough to get through,” Villanova Coach Harry Perretta said about playing in this type of game. “When they made a run to get the lead back, I thought we were in trouble, until Jannah made the deep three.”
“Harry reminded us that we are shooters and when the shots aren’t falling, keep shooting,” Jekot said. “In the second half we kept shooting.”
The key sequence was in the fourth quarter with the Red and Blue leading by 45 – 44 with 7:04 to play. Villanova followed that with three consecutive three-point baskets, two by Jannah Tucker and one by Adrianna Hahn to move in front 53 – 45 with under four and a half minutes left. The Quakers scored only 5 more points from there.
“It really hurt us when they picked up the momentum and we had lapses,” Parker said. “That set us back a little and we had to fight a little harder to get back on track. It caught up to us.”
Penn had only one other player score in double figures. Phoebe Sterba scored 12. Four other Quaker players scored.
“Eleah was dominant, but we just didn’t have enough around her,” Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin said. “We did not have enough continuity on the offensive end.”
“We need to know how to handle the runs, the adversity, and we did, but they were a little better at the right time.”
Big East conference games await Villanova as they have 12 more games on the regular season schedule. The Wildcats are 11 – 6 and go to Georgetown on Saturday.
The Quakers (9 – 3, 2 – 1) still have another Big Five game to play when they host Temple next week. City Series games still are good teaching points for the Red and Blue.
“As the season progresses and we get into the Ivies, our team will develop great chemistry, and that will help us in the Ivy League and in the tournament,” said Parker. “When it gets down to those times, this will really help us.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian