The women’s basketball season came to an end this weekend as the team wrapped up its best season ever, finishing 15-12 overall. The team also set a record for most Ivy wins, with eight. Moreover, the 8-6 conference record guarantees the Red its best Ivy finish, securing a third place tie with either Dartmouth or Harvard, pending the outcome of their joint contest.
The final two games of the women’s basketball season was in sync with how it played all year. The Red lost a last-second thriller on Friday night to Dartmouth, 51-50. However, it rebounded and beat Ivy rival Harvard on Saturday night in a close, action-packed, 75-73 victory over the Crimson.
Saturday night’s game was memorable since it was senior night, and the two seniors on the team shined. Senior Jen Linker led the Red with 18 points, two blocks and two steals. She just missed setting the all-time blocking record, ending her career two shy of Kelly Jackson’s 106 blocks. Classmate Sandy Martisaukas added eight points and three first-half rebounds.
“The seniors played extraordinarily. Jen [Linker] and Sandy [Martisaukas] played out of their minds,” lauded head coach Marnie Dacko.
Dominating the first half on 50-percent field goal shooting, and going 5-10 from beyond the arc, the Red ended the first 20 minutes with a 45-31 advantage. The team came out fast and energized, enthused by the aggressive play of the two departing seniors. Strong play by freshman Karen Force and good rebounding from sophomore Lynell Davis kept the team ahead.
“Jen Linker got the team moving in the first half. Along with Sandy [Martisaukas,] they led the team and the rest followed through,” Dacko noted.
The first half momentum created by the captains carried into the second half. However, Cornell’s poor shooting let Harvard back into contention. Making only six of its 27 field goal attempts, the women lost control of the game. The Crimson took a more aggressive defensive tact, giving the Red 21 attempted free throws in the second half, making 15 of them. Linker’s 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining was the last field goal for the Red.
Linker’s free throw with 54.3 seconds left put the Red up by four, raising the fans to their feet. Harvard answered with a field goal to cut the deficit to two. The Red missed a shot, and Harvard snatched the rebound with 10.6 seconds remaining. Cornell’s smothering defense did not allow the visiting team a good shot, though, and the Crimson’s last-second three missed. Junior Breean Walas’ rebound sealed the win.
Five players scored in double digits, exemplifying the kind of game Coach Dacko was looking for from the Red. Sophomore Katie Romey contributed 14 points off the bench. Junior Do Stevens put forth a solid all-around effort, with 13 points, six rebounds, and three steals. Walas and Force each added ten points, and Force dished out a career-high nine assists. Davis finished the game with a team-high eight rebounds.
“It was great to beat Harvard. The team played awesome on senior night,” said Davis. “It was a great win, and we really came out strong.”
The Dartmouth game was another nail-biter, but without a happy ending for the Red. The Green came out slow, scoring only 13 first half points. Poor shooting plagued both teams in the contest, with Cornell hitting only 34.5-percent and Dartmouth 29.6-percent.
Leading 25-13 at the half, the Red came back onto the court ready to play in the second half. Leading by as many as 14 at times, eventually the team’s shooting woes allowed Dartmouth to fight its way back. As the game entered the final minute, the Red was up by three. Dartmouth freshman Jamiee Librizzi nailed a 3-point shot with 48 seconds left to tie the game. Walas and Davis both missed field goals. Walas fouled Dartmouth senior Samantha Berdinka, putting her on the line with eight seconds to go. She made one of two to give the Green a 51-50 lead. A last second shot by Romey failed, and Dartmouth walked away with the win.
“It was a bittersweet weekend, overall. For the Dartmouth game we were ready to play; we played great defense, but we looked and played tired. Missed lay-ups and free throws took the ‘W’ away from us, but we played well enough to win,” Dacko summarized.
Penn clinched the Ivy title this year, as it is undefeated in conference play. Dartmouth and Harvard play each other for second place on Tuesday, and the loser ties the Red for third place.
“I am proud of the team. We knew the title was out of contention a while ago, but we still played hard, Dacko said, adding, “I wish we had an Ivy tournament, because our team is peaking right now, and I feel we are contenders. The women stepped up and played good, exciting basketball. We played entertaining games.”
“Even the Dartmouth game was an improvement, we lost to them by 16 before. We were last in the Ivy last year, and this year we managed to sweep Princeton, Brown and Yale. We set a lot of marks, a strong foundation for the future. We changed the attitude of the team. It was a great send-off for the seniors, and motivation to the underclassmen for next year,” Dacko looked ahead.
“We are ready to start the off-season, and we are working to win the Ivy League title next year,” Davis planned.
Archived article by Cammy Kandiko