Technically, Saturday’s game at the Palestra was a home game for St. Joseph’s. It had all the pregame trappings of one played at Hagan Arena.
Still, the four corners of the Palestra were filled as Quakers fans showed up in hopes of seeing the Red and Blue claim their first outright Big 5 title since 2001-02.
An equal number of Hawks fans in the sellout crowd were looking for something different.
The thing about these City Series matchups is nobody ever wants to be coronation piece for somebody else.
St. Joe’s could not play the role of spoiler. At the worst, Penn was going to share the Big 5 title with Villanova.
But keeping the Quakers from going 4-0 in the round robin would mean something to the Hawks.
Penn, however, would not be denied.
Freshman guard Bryce Washington scored a career-high 23 and had a career-high 10 rebounds and a career-high four assists as Penn took the Big 5 title all for itself with a 78-70 victory.
AJ Brodeur had 20 points as the Quakers swept a four-game round-robin for just the second time since the 1980-81 season.
“It was real important to us,” Brodeur said. “It’s one thing to come in here knowing that we already had a share of the Big 5, but that wasn’t our mindset. We wanted to win -- this game, the Big 5. We wanted it all to ourselves.
“This was a great way to end our short Big 5 season and we can take this into Ivy League play.”
Charlie Brown Jr. had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hawks.
This game came down to three-point shooting. St. Joe’s actually attempted more field goals than Penn, but the Quakers sank 14 treys, while the Hawks were only 3-for-24 from long range.
Penn is ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in three-point field goal defense.
“They run at you all the time and don’t give you a lot of good looks,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said. “For me, this game was about turnovers and missed layups. We had a pace where we got up 72 shots. We missed shots right at the rim.”
Washington, from Southfield, Mich., didn’t waste time getting into the flow of Big 5 basketball. He made a career-high six three-pointers.
“I had always known about the Big 5 and how it was important to Philadelphia,” Washington said. “Playing here in a packed Palestra was even better than I could have thought.
“I knew how much the Big 5 championship meant to my teammates, especially the seniors. I just wanted to come out and give all I had.”