NEW HAVEN, CT 3/17/2019 – For the third time the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Princeton Tigers met for the Ivy League women’s basketball championship. This time Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater was the venue. It is the teams that matter and both shared the regular season crown, and split the season series winning on the other teams home court. On the neutral site Princeton takes home the Ancient Eight Women’s Basketball title for the second straight year winning a hard fought 65 – 54 win over Penn by pulling away in the last minutes.
“We really locked in at the end of the game,” said Alarie. “It was back and forth the whole game. At the end of the game, the fourth quarter, that’s when it really matters. We played so hard.”
Princeton Coach Courtney Banghart said the two best teams needed to be playing to get eyes on the league. Those who were watching saw those teams compete as hard as they could. The game was back and forth, ebb and flow. The best players rose to the occasion.
Alarie, the tournament Most Outstanding Player, had a game-high 25 points and pulled down 6 rebounds. She contained Penn forward Eleah Parker to 5 of 23 shooting. Gabrielle Rush scored 18 points converting 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. Carlie Littlefield contributed 13 points, 8 in the second half.
Ashley Russell scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Parker got 10 points and 11 rebounds.
With just over 6 and a half minutes remaining Quakers guard Kendall Grasela tied the game at 51 with a floater, but the team would score only 3 more points the rest of the game. Penn still within a possession freshman guard Julia Cunningham made a huge three-pointer to stretch the Princeton lead to 58 – 52 at the 2:29 mark. The Tigers closed it out making 7 of 10 from the free throw line. The offense of the Red and Blue bogged down, and it was costly.
“We got wrapped up in the heat of the moment,” said Russell. “We kept trying to fight back. The shots weren’t falling and that’s a little defeating. We tried to bounce back.”
“We lost our flow a little bit,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “We were better in transition pretty much the whole game until the last minutes. The tempo changed a little bit.”
The Quakers were ahead at halftime 31 – 30. The lead grew for Penn to as many as 7 at 41 – 34 with four and a half minutes left in the third quarter. The Tigers fought back behind a three by Rush and 5 counters by Littlefield to get to within 47 – 44 to start the final 10 minutes.
Penn finishes the season 23 – 6. There is an opportunity to play more games for this group, but that is not in the thought process right now.
“We were trying to get to this moment and capture it,” McLaughlin. “Once we get home and realize that we will play again will help, but not in the moment. We’ll regroup and set our goals again. We are struggling right now.”
Penn and Princeton, Princeton and Penn, these two teams will meet again in a meaningful game. This result will fuel the fire of the Quakers and Parker.
“This will be motivation for next year,” Parker said, “This loss does not take away everything we’ve done this entire season, and will only fuel us to compete against them again next year.”
NOTES: The All-Tournament team consisted of Bella Alarie the Most Outstanding Player, Carlie Littlefield, Gabrielle Rush, Julia Cunningham, Ashley Russell, and Eleah Parker.
Written By: Glenn Papazian