Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Penn Strikes Gold on Alaskan's Shot in Quakers' Opener

By Mel Greenberg

BETHLEHEM, Pa. _
It took Penn five minutes of overtime a year ago in The Palestra to win their season opener against Lehigh.
This time the Quakers got the job done with 15 seconds left in regulation when sophomore Maggie Burgess hit a short jumper for a 54-53 triumph Thursday night.
It’s the first time Penn has been above. 500 since last season’s non-conference win over the Mountain Hawks (1-1). The Quakers immediate went on a 10-game slide and went on to finish 5-22 overall.
Adrienne Blount had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Lehigh, and Sara Ellis scored 11 points.
Burgess, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, was asked if she ever had a game-winning shot previously in her basketball career.
“Absolutely not,” she said, showing a little bit of nervous excitement.
Burgess made every shot count because her heroics came off the only attempt she took the entire night.
Afterwards, she had no recollections over how the winning play unfolded.
“Absolutely not. It’s all gone. I wasn’t thinking.”
Penn coach Pat Knapp, however, said the play went as designed.
“It was the right pass and she spotted it up in the right place,” Knapp said.
Statistically, it was senior night in terms of the Quakers’ win Joey Rhoads and Monica Naltner each scored 18 points, and Lauren Pears dealt eight assists and had five steals.
Pears had suffered a season-ending knee injury in the seventh game of that early slide a year ago.
“Bottom line is a year ago we did not have all our people,” Knapp said. “One of those kids was Lauren Pears. And Lauren Pears is a big part of our team, particularly with the kind of defense Lauren plays.
“Joey is always going to give a great effort both ends of the court, but Lauren Pears was at least the defensive MVP tonight.”
The game was close throughout the entire night. Anca Popovici hit a layup with 57 seconds left in the first half and then Pears hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to send Penn to the break with a 34-30 advantage.
The Quakers maintained the lead until late in the game when a few bad plays and missed shots enabled Lehigh to go ahead, 53-52, on a pair of foul shots with 1:24 left in the game.
But Penn was able to produce the winning play that began with the Quakers gaining possession on Naltner’s blocked shot.
Still, the Quakers had to defense the Mountain Hawks in the closing seconds and did not secure the triumph until Lehigh missed a shot from the corner.
“We still have to improve the depth from our bench,” said Knapp, whose team travels to Rider, Sunday, before the home opener Tuesday night in a Big Five game against La Salle at the Palestra. “But the guards with Popovici added to our pressure defense.”
That was the same theme Rhoads spoke of after the game.
“It all came down to our defense,” the graduate of Germantown Academy said. “We made a couple of mistakes at the end, but we showed that if you play strong defense, you can get it done.
“Of course that shot by Maggie was huge,” Rhoads added.
Pears was obviously thrilled to be back in uniform.
“It feels great to be back and to be part of the team again,” Pears said. “Coming out with a `W’ in the first game is just a good feeling for us.”
-- Mel

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