PHILADELPHIA - It was a season of milestones for the University of Pennsylvania women's basektball team and it culminated with the annual end-of-year banquet on Sunday night at Popi's Italian Restaurant in South Philadelphia. The yearly team awards were handed out as the Quakers were joined by their families, friends and the coaching staff.
As a team in 2011-12, Penn (13-15, 6-8 Ivy) finished with its highest win total since the 2004-05 season. In addition to the best 10-game start in school history, the Quakers opened 5-0 at home for the first time in eight years and set a program record with seven wins before the month of January. Penn's seven non-conference wins tied for fourth-most in school history. The Quakers also swept a road weekend for the first time in five seasons and posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 2003-04 and 2004-05. Off the court, Penn raised more than $4,000 for various charities.
Senior Jess Knapp won multiple awards on the night, claiming the Epton-Tarr Award for her efforts as the consummate team player throughout the 2011-12 campaign. She also earned the Team Leader award for the second straight year. Knapp played the final 13 games of her career on two torn ligaments in her left knee. The Carlstadt, N.J., native tore her ACL and MCL on December 30 and missed just five games before returning to the floor. She started the final nine games for Penn and led the team in rebounding six times in that span. Despite the injury, she still finished in the top 10 in the Ivy League in rebounding (8th) and blocks (7th).
Senior Jourdan Banks was honored with the prestigious Harshberger-Johnson-Brendel (HJB) Prize for Sportsmanship, Loyalty and Leadership. The HJB, created by Penn alumna and former player Cynthia Warner Johnson Crowley CW’52, honors the strong tradition of more than 80 years of women’s varsity basketball at Penn. Banks served as team captain in 2011-12 and started 16 games. She finished second on the team in field goal percentage (.407) and led the team in rebounding three times, including a career-best nine rebounds in the overtime win over St. Francis (N.Y.).
Sophomore Alyssa Baron was awarded the team's Co-Impact Player of the Year honor along with freshman Kara Bonenberger. Baron won the Ivy League scoring title for the second year in a row, and was named second-team All-Ivy and first-team All-Big 5. Bonenberger won Big 5 Rookie of the Year honors after she finished second in the Ivy League in field goal percentage and led the Quakers in rebounding and blocks. She started 12 games in her rookie campaign and finished second on the team in scoring.
Freshman Renee Busch was recognized with the team's Most Dedicated award. Busch started 19 games and played in all 28 during her rookie campaign. She led Penn in three-point percentage (.366) and free throw percentage (.813) and was second on the team with 26 made threes.
Fellow freshman Katy Allen was also honored on Sunday. She earned the Miss Intagible award. Allen played in every game and started the last 18. She tied for second on the team in three-point percentage (.333), and finished third on the team in scoring, field goal percentage and made field goals.
Sophomore Meghan McCullough was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year. She played in all 28 games for the second straight year to start her career. Usually pitted against the opposition's top guard, McCullough had multiple rebounds in 18 different games and finished the year with 21 steals.
Knapp and Banks each received a commemorative jersey and gave a speech to conclude the banquet. Both of them also wrote a senior tribute that was featured in the banquet program and is shown below:
#4 Jess Knapp
Basketball is like a quality friendship. It is judgment free, and accepts me for my flaws. It challenges me to be a more versatile person. It teaches me lessons of love, perseverance, value, and commitment. It has been with me during the worst times of my life, as both a source of pain and a crutch of support. My experience wearing a red and blue jersey has completely encompassed all of these aspects, and for that it is something that will always hold a special place in my heart. I would like to thank my family for being such a solid foundation, and supporting me endlessly along this journey. Without all of their sacrifices I would not be where I am today. I’d also like to thank my teammates for making the rough times easier and the good times phenomenal. Each day their passion and vibrant personalities renew my love for this game. Thank you to my coaches for dedicating countless hours to building this program, and for always having confidence in me. Thank you to Amy for working so hard to get me back on the court (sorry for giving you a heart condition), and to Eric for making me a celebrity. Finally, I’d like to thank Jourdan for being my rock. You are truly the only person I could have made this journey with. For the returning players, I encourage you to cherish every second you have left with this program. Give your all every time out, respect the game, and leave your mark here so when you look back, you can fully appreciate all that Penn basketball has brought you, the way that I can.
#42 Jourdan Banks
To sum up my experiences on the Penn women’s basketball team in a short paragraph is no easy feat. The past four years have given me some of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. There is nothing that can compare to the camaraderie and remarkable spirit that exists on our team. The people were unbelievable and the experiences were unforgettable. That being said, I’d first and foremost like to thank and congratulate my parents. Thank you for allowing me to come to this wonderful university and giving me the support I needed as best you could from so far away. And congratulations because now you don’t have to stress about whether we won or not! To the rest of my family—specifically my brother, who although my age doesn’t permit it, but my height does, I undoubtedly look up to and admire the person he has become. To the coaches—I’ve never met such dedicated and genuine people in my life. The way in which you have turned this program around and carried yourselves throughout this whole journey is just amazing. To my teammates—words cannot express the thanks I have for you all. Every one of you has changed my life in a way that’s unforgettable. Lastly, to Jess—I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone but you. The road wasn’t always easy but knowing that you were right by my side pushed me further than I ever thought I could go. Playing basketball here at Penn has by far been the best thing to ever happen to me, and definitely something I will never forget.
A complete list of the awards handed out Sunday:
2012 Team Awards:
Harshberger-Johnson-Brendel Prize for Sportsmanship, Loyalty and Leadership in Basketball - Jourdan Banks
Epton-Tarr Award - Jess Knapp
Impact Player of the Year - Alyssa Baron & Kara Bonenberger
Defensive Player of the Year - Meghan McCullough
Team Leader - Jess Knapp
Most Dedicated Player of the Year - Renee Busch
Miss Intangible - Katy Allen