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Women’s basketball prevails over Penn, 60–47, to advance to Ivy Madness championship

The Tigers will face Harvard in Saturday night’s final

Junior forward Ellie Mitchel (00) had her third double-double of the season Friday.
Nathan Gage / The Daily Princetonian.

On Friday, March 10, the women’s basketball team (22–5 overall, 12–2 Ivy League) advanced to the Ivy League Tournament championship game, extending their win streak to 14 games by defeating the Penn Quakers (17–11, 9–5) in the semifinals, 60–47. Despite the Tigers opening up a double-digit lead in the first half, the Quakers rallied back to cut it to single digits in the third quarter. Princeton ultimately held on, with three scorers in double figures and three players grabbing at least six rebounds.

“This time of the year it’s about surviving, advancing, and making it to the next day. And I thought it felt pretty good after that first quarter, but Penn really hung tough,” head coach Carla Berube said at a press conference after the game. “Then our defense came alive again, and we got some big stops … we’re really pleased to be playing in the finals tomorrow.”


Princeton began the game firing on all cylinders, as the Tigers jumped to a 16–0 lead in the first quarter. The hot start was fueled by Tigers’ junior guard and recently crowned Ivy League Player of the Year, Kaitlyn Chen, who scored four of the Tigers’ first six points and went on to finish the quarter with ten. The Tigers’ defense was also instrumental to their early advantage. Princeton forced five turnovers in the first quarter and blocked three shots, two of which were jumpshots from Quakers’ star guard Kayla Padilla. Padilla and forward Jordan Obi, Penn’s second leading scorer, were both held scoreless in the first quarter.

“[We were] trying to limit her touches and make her really work for everything,” Berube said of the Tigers’ defense on Obi. “[Senior guard Grace Stone] did a really great job. You can’t be physical with [Obi] because she’s so strong, [so] it’s about using your quickness to get around and deny her.”

The second quarter began with more of the same, as first-year guard and Ivy League Rookie of the Year Madison St. Rose opened the quarter with a contested layup extending the Tigers’ lead to 19 at 21–2. From there both teams traded baskets as Padilla began to heat up, making multiple jump shots and getting to the foul line twice. She finished the quarter with eight points, but St. Rose was excellent in the second quarter too, answering with eight points of her own. 

First-year guard Madison St. Rose was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year on Wednesday.
Nathan Gage / The Daily Princetonian.


“[St. Rose] played with a lot of confidence, she stepped up in that second quarter when we had like a little bit of a wall,” Chen said. “She kept us in there, kept us going.”

Princeton held strong until the end of the first half, when Penn went on a quick 7–0 run to close the second quarter. Penn guard Mandy McGurk stunned the Jadwin crowd with a half-court buzzer beater, cutting the Tiger lead to 11 at the half. The Tigers committed seven fouls and four turnovers as Penn won the quarter by six points.

The Quakers picked up where they left off in the beginning of the third quarter, as Padilla made multiple backdoor cuts for layups. Eight points in the quarter from Chen played a pivotal role in stopping the Quakers from closing the gap entirely. Chen led all scorers with 20 points going into the fourth quarter. Junior forward Ellie Mitchell also stepped up for Princeton in the quarter, grabbing multiple contested rebounds while also hitting two shots in the paint and providing an assist to Chen.

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The Quakers stumbled early on, and could only watch as Princeton soared into the Ivy Madness title game.
Courtesy of Shelley M. Szwast/Princeton Athletics.

Mitchell, who finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds, her third double-double of the season, spoke about her increasing confidence on offense. 

“Obviously [Chen] is a big scorer for us and when the defense has to really crash on her, [it] opens up for me,” she said. “I think my team has a lot of confidence in me … They’re telling me, ‘Shoot that,’ even if sometimes I’m more nervous about it.”

Even with the Princeton offense playing well, Penn was able to get back into the game with a balanced attack led by Padilla, Obi, and guard Simone Sawyer, who were key factors in the Quakers entering the fourth quarter only down six, after trailing by as many as 19 earlier in the game.

Having gotten the better of the Tigers in the previous two quarters, Penn were very much in the game going into the fourth. However, the Tigers opened the quarter on an 8–2 run, which proved to be devastating to Penn’s comeback attempt. Senior guard Julia Cunningham was instrumental in keeping the Tigers in front, playing a role in all eight points by scoring two with a jump shot in the paint and providing assists to Mitchell and Chen. 


Following this run was a scoreless stretch lasting over two minutes, until a Mitchell layup with just under three minutes to play extended the Tigers’ lead to 14. Penn fought until the end, as a Padilla three-point shot cut the lead to 11 with 55 seconds left, but Princeton hit their free throws to close out the win.

“We had a great start, which gave us a little bit of a cushion and Penn really fought back,” Mitchell said after the game. “Ultimately, we communicated a lot. Our help was there. We just have a lot of trust in each other and we know that if one person gets beat, the next person is going to be there. That next play mentality, I think it really helped us today.”

The Tigers started off incredibly strong, and even though Penn came back in the third, key contributions on both sides of the ball will punch the Tigers’ ticket to the Ivy League final against the Harvard Crimson, a rematch of last year’s nail-biting tournament semifinal.

The Crimson defeated the Columbia Lions in Friday's second semifinal by a score of 72–65 in overtime. Harvard guard McKenzie Forbes, who led the Crimson with 19 points in their back-and-forth loss to the Tigers last month, put up 27 points, six rebounds and three steals during their historic win. Friday’s win was Harvard's first in the history of the Ivy League tournament, which was established in 2017. The championship match will be played at 5 p.m. at Jadwin Gym on Saturday.

Isabel Rodrigues is a senior writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

Tony Owens is a contributor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ 

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