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Penn Women Sink Princeton for Ivy Title

Penn guard Meghan McCullough, left, collides with Princeton guards Annie Tarakchian, center, and Blake Dietrick while competing for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Princeton, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Penn guard Meghan McCullough, left, collides with Princeton guards Annie Tarakchian, center, and Blake Dietrick while competing for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Princeton, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Princeton, n.j. — Alyssa Baron and her Penn teammates never stopped believing they could win an Ivy League championship.

Even after the Quakers were blown out at home to four-time defending champion Princeton in the league opener, they still felt that they had all the right pieces for a title run.

They were right.

Baron scored 23 points and Sydney Stipanovich added 19 to lead Penn to an 80-64 win over rival Princeton on Tuesday night and give the Quakers the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, an overall team effort,” Baron said. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming about for four years. We’ve been building the pieces of the puzzle and now we finally have it.”

It’s Penn’s first title since the 2003-04 season, and the Quakers ended the Tigers’ stranglehold atop the conference. Princeton had won the previous four league championships.

While Penn had a brief oncourt celebration postgame, the Quakers would have to wait until they got back to the Palestra later Tuesday night to cut down the nets. League rules don’t allow visiting teams to do that.

“We’re excited to get back there and celebrate with our fans,” Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin said.

Tuesday night’s game marked only the second time in league history that the final game of the regular season decided the champion. The previous time came in 1995 when the championship came down to the final game between Harvard and Dartmouth.

“The way it set up tonight was a perfect storm,” McLaughlin said. “It was a great atmosphere for women’s basketball. To have two 11-2 teams. I don’t know that these guys could have scripted it any better.”

The Ivy League is the only conference in the country that doesn’t have a postseason tournament to decide its champion.

“I’m not a fan of an Ivy tournament. The reason is we need to send our best teams,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, a former Dartmouth player and assistant coach, said. “Imagine if Penn had lost to Dartmouth and we had lost to Brown and we’re not sending our best team. I feel confident Penn has earned it. They beat us on our home floor later in the season.”

Princeton had won the past 11 meetings, including an 84-53 romp in early January and the Quakers hadn’t won in Jadwin Gymnasium since 2005 and that took double overtime.

The Tigers (20-8, 11-3) didn’t look like the same team from the first meeting of the season as Penn (22-6, 12-2 Ivy League) took control of the game early.

Men’s Hoop

Princeton 70, Penn 65

Princeton, n.j. — T.J. Bray scored 18 points as Princeton won its fifth straight game.

Steven Cook had 14 points and Clay Wilson added 12 for Princeton (20-8). Cook and Wilson came off the bench as Princeton’s reserves outscored Penn 31-6. The Tigers made 43 percent of their shots and went to the line 27 times, compared to 14 for Penn.

Princeton’s lead was trimmed to 58-54 until Bray’s basket and after a Miles Jackson-Cartwright free throw for Penn, Wilson hit a 3-pointer for a 63-55 lead.

Fran Dougherty led Pennsylvania (8-20) with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Darien Nelson-Henry added 18 points. Tony Hicks, Penn’s leading scorer at 15.5 points, played just 3 minutes because of disciplinary reasons. He was ejected from Friday’s game against Columbia.