Carlie Littlefield ’21 led Princeton with four assists against Penn.
Beverly Schaefer

PHILADELPHIA — Princeton and Penn have the hottest rivalry in Ivy League women’s basketball. The Killer P’s combined to win the last nine championships and have finished first and second every year since 2014, so it was no surprise that they met in the final of the Ivy League Tournament on Sunday. Princeton led from start to finish in a 63-34 blowout, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Tigers had already swept Penn in the regular season, but much more was at stake in the third meeting — especially for Princeton’s veterans, who lost to the Quakers 57-48 in the championship game of last year’s tournament.

“To beat Penn three times this year is huge for us. In January, when we played for the first time this year, that was the first time we beat them in 1,000 days or something,” Bella Alarie ’20 said. (According to the team’s official recap, it was actually 1,033 days — not that anyone was counting.) “To do it two more times after that means so much to this team.”

The Tigers allowed only three points in the first 12 minutes, running up an early 24-3 lead that was never again threatened. They played solid one-on-one defense, not allowing any open shots off passes or drives; when a Quaker got near the basket, she was usually met by Alarie, who blocked six shots and grabbed 17 rebounds. “Our defense was epic,” head coach Courtney Banghart said.

Offensively, Princeton showcased its depth: The Tigers’ bench scored 36 points, more than Penn’s entire team. Half of those points came from Abby Meyers ’21, including back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in a first-quarter run. As a team, Princeton shot 9-for-21 from three-point range — with eight of the nine made shots coming from reserves.

Meyers and Leslie Robinson ’18 were named to the all-tournament team along with Alarie, who was the Most Outstanding Player with 25 points, 34 rebounds and nine blocks over two games (including a semifinal win over Yale). Earlier in the week, Alarie was named the Ivy League’s regular-season Player of the Year.

For a second straight season, the conference tournament was held at the Palestra. Leading up to this year’s event, Banghart made clear her displeasure about the location, which ultimately required Princeton, the conference champion and No. 1 seed, to play a de facto road game against the No. 2-seed Quakers. But the Tigers played well enough to win in any location. (The Ivy League has not yet announced where next year’s tournament will be held.)

The Tigers will learn their NCAA tournament seeding and first-round opponent at 7 p.m. Monday.