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March Total: 10
Season Total: 43
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PHILADELPHIA - Trailing by two with 7.9 seconds left, junior captain Alyssa Baron took the ball the length of the floor and buried a three before the buzzer to send a jubilant University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team to the semifinals of the Women's Basketball Inviational (WBI). The second-seeded Quakers survived third-seeded Fairfield, 49-48, in a wild quarterfinal matchup at The Palestra Saturday night.
The Quakers advance to take on top-seeded Detroit or fifth-seeded College of Charlston on March 27 or March 28 at a site to be determined for the right to play in the 2013 WBI Championship game. Detroit hosts the Cougars on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Penn (18-12), which has won 18 games for just the third time in school history and the first time since 2000-01, led by three, 46-43 with 29 seconds remaining.
The Stags (18-14) made a layup to close to within one and then Penn missed the front end of a one-and-one. Fairfield grabbed the rebound and found leading scorer, Brittany MacFarlane, open in the far corner. She buried a go-ahead three with 7.9 seconds left.
But Baron was the hero. Following Penn's timeout, she took the inbounds pass, dribbled to the three-point arc in front of the Penn bench and calmly hit a step-back three to send the Palestra crowd into a frenzy.
Baron recorded her fifth career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. She had eight of Penn's first 10 points as the Quakers jumped out to a 12-3 lead.
Fairfield, who went the first seven minutes without a basket, began to knock down a few shots and scored nine of the next 11 points to get within 14-12 at the 7:52 mark of the opening half.
But then, senior captain Brianna Bradford and junior center Courtney Wilson, who combined for 27 points off the bench in Penn's first round win, sparked the Quakers again. With Penn up two, Wilson hit a jumper, Bradford converted a steal into a fastbreak layup and then Wilson hit a three to extend Penn's advantage to 23-14 at the 5:33 mark.
The Stags scored 10 of the next 12 before Bradford's pick-pocket steal at half court led to an easy layup just before the halftime buzzer for a 27-24 lead at the break.
The Quakers maintained their one-possession advantage for the first five minutes of the half, but Fairfield took its first lead of the night, 34-32, with 14:53 to go. Baron tied it at the 13:50 mark, but the Quakers did not score again for the next six minutes.
Penn's defense kept the Quakers close. Fairfield led by only five when the Red and Blue got back on the scoreboard - in a big way. Baron hit two free throws. The full court press forced a quick turnover and sophomore Kara Bonenberger converted it into a layup. Sophomore Katy Allen pulled in a defensive rebound and Kathleen Roche rattled home her a three. In just 1:09, Penn went on a 7-0 run to go up, 41-39, with 6:31 to play.
Fairfield had the next four, but Bradford hit a three to change the lead back in Penn's favor, 44-43, at the 4:16 mark. When Bonenberger hit two free throws on the next possession, neither team scored again until the frantic final 30 seconds.
Penn, which set a school record with its 30th game of the season, shot 35 percent (20-of-58) from the floor, including 5-of-17 (29.4%) from three. Fairfield was 21-of-55 (38.2%) and 5-of-20 (25.0%). The Quakers held the slight rebounding edge, 41-37, and forced 15 turnovers compared to just 12 miscues of their own.
Bradford finished with nine points, four rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Bonenberger, the Ivy League leader in blocks, added three more and now has 48 this season to rank fourth all-time at Penn. Roche finished with eight points and six rebounds. Freshman Keiera Ray and Baron led Penn with three assists apiece.
Baron and Bonenberger each started for the 30th time this season - a school record.
In its fourth season, the WBI is a 16-team tournament split into two regions. Minnesota, who qualified for the WNIT this season, is the defending champion. Penn, who topped Howard in the First Round at The Palestra on Thursday, 65-60, for the first postseason win in program history, is the first Ivy League team to earn a berth in the WBI.