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March Total: 12
Season Total: 45
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DETROIT, Mich. - You wouldn't expect the season to end any other way. The University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team battled to the final buzzer. Unfortunately, a late rally and the game-tying three fell short as time expired. The second-seeded Quakers lost at top-seed Detroit, 71-68, in the WBI Semifinals on Wednesday night at Calihan Hall.
Penn (18-13) finished with the second-most wins in program history. Detroit (20-13) moves on to play the winner of McNeese State and South Dakota in the WBI Championship game.
Against a Detroit team that has lost just one of its 15 home games this season, Penn battled back from a 14-point deficit in the final six minutes and a six-point deficit in the final 20 seconds, but a last second game-tying three hit the front of the rim and bounced away as time expired.
It was a fast-paced first half. Detroit scored the first four, but sophomore Kathleen Roche, who finished with a team-high 19 points, hit a three to get the Quakers going.
For much of the game, the Quakers deployed an effective full court press.Freshman Keiera Ray got an early steal and an easy layup for Penn's first lead, then junior captain Alyssa Baron scored seven straight for the Quakers for a 12-9 edge at the 15:54 mark.
Penn took its largest lead of the game when junior Courtney Wilson hit a three for a 20-14 advantage near the midway point of the half. But Detroit scored 10 in a row to go back up four.
It went back-and-forth from there. In all, the lead changed hands 12 times in the first 20 minutes and there were six ties in that span. Senior captain Brianna Bradford hit a three with 30 seconds left to put Penn up 34-32, but Shareta Brown, who finished with a game-high 32 points, drilled a three at the buzzer to send the Titans into the half with a 35-34 edge.
Penn dug a deep hole to start the second half. The Quakers went more than eight minutes without a field goal and the Titans built a 14-point lead, 51-37.
Bradford broke the drought with a three at the 11:18 mark, but Detroit traded baskets with the Quakers over the next five minutes.
Penn began to chip away with just over six minutes left. A quick five points on a pair of free throws from Ray and a three from Roche brought the deficit down to single digits, 60-52, with 5:14 left.
Detroit scored to make it a 10-point game again, but another quick five points - four from sophomore Katy Allen and another Roche free throw - cut the Titans lead to 62-57 with 2:41 remaining.
With the press on, Ray came away with another steal and hit two more free throws to make it a three-point game. Detroit made a free throw, but Roche hit two at the other end and Penn found itself down just two, 65-63, with 46 ticks to go.
On the next possession, Ray was called for a highly debated intentional foul on a breakaway layup. Detroit made all four free throws to lead 69-63 at the 22-second mark.
But Penn still refused to give up. Roche was fouled attempting a three and made each free throw. Then Detroit made one of two from the charity stripe. Baron then took the ball coast-to-coast for a layup to get Penn within two, 70-68, with six seconds remaining.
With 4.7 seconds on the clock, Detroit went to the line and made the first. But missed the second. Allen corralled the rebound, passed ahead to Ray, who got halfway between halfcourt and the three-point line. But Penn's last shot of the season bounced high off the rim and harmlessly away.
Roche made three threes and added four rebounds in 28 minutes. Baron and Ray each added 12 points apiece, while Allen had eight, sophomore Kara Bonenberger had seven and Bradford added six. Baron had a team-best six rebounds and Ray finished with a game-high five steals.
Penn was just 6-of-22 in the second half and finished the game 19-of-55 (34.5%), including 7-of-23 (30.4%) from three. Detroit was 22-of-46 (47.8%) overall and 6-of-14 (42.9%) from three. Penn had just nine turnovers and forced 19. The Quakers dropped the rebounding battle, 39-31, and were outscored 28-18 in the paint, but held a 12-0 advantage in fastbreak points.
It marked the final game in the Red and Blue for senior captains Bradford and Katie Davis. They graduate as the only class in program history to improve their win total every season.
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 and Fairfield in the quarterfinals for its first postseason wins in program history, is the first Ivy League team to earn a berth in the WBI.