WILMINGTON – At Ursuline, the students apparently learn the Nine Commandments.
After witnessing Wednesday night’s basketball matchup between the top-ranked Raiders and No. 3 Sanford, one might come to the conclusion that “Thou shalt not steal” has been removed from the curriculum. How else to explain the thievery the Raiders committed, particularly in the explosive and decisive first period, when their airtight defense and quick reflexes led to numerous steals and transition points en route to a 58-27 win over the Warriors.
It was the first meeting between the teams since last year’s state final, won by Ursuline, 49-29.
The game was tied just once, at 2-2, before Ursuline (14-5) showed why it will be the favorite in the upcoming state tournament. After Sanford’s Alison Lewis brought her team within 6-4, the Raiders turned up the heat. Adrianna Hahn drained a three-point shot, Laura Hurff scored five straight, and near the end of the first quarter, Mary Abram knocked down a reverse layup on a beautiful back-door feed from Hahn. The first ended with Ursuline leading, 22-4, after a 16-point run, many of them coming after steals.
The Warriors (15-5) struggled to advance the ball past midcourt in the face of a suffocating defense from the host Raiders. The turnovers put them in a hole they could not climb out of.
Ursuline coach John Noonan said the coaches have been emphasizing defense, and obviously the team took the message to heart.
“If we play hard on the defensive side, we think we’re going to get some good opportunities. And if you get easy opportunities, obviously it makes your offense a little bit more productive,” he said.
Hurff said another key was to move the ball quickly on offense to create open looks. Tight defense, she said, helps create those chances.
Abram found herself at on the receiving end of several other pinpoint passes throughout the game, finishing with 14 points to lead all scorers.
The Raiders led, 38-10, at halftime, and the cushion allowed Noonan to get valuable playing time for everyone on the roster. The starters left the court for good midway through the third quarter, and Alyssa Irons took advantage, scoring seven in the fourth.
Abram and Hurff both used the words “tempo” and “intensity” when explaining why the Raiders were able to dominate a strong team like Sanford.
“We really came prepared. We’ve been practicing really hard. Just because we won last year, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a whole new year, it’s a whole new team,” Abram said.
Hurff added, “I feel like in the past week at practice everybody’s been bringing the intensity a lot, and it’s been high-tempo at practice, so I knew that today we were prepared for this game.”
The loss ended Sanford’s 13-game winning streak; it was their third to an in-state team (the others were to Appoquinimink and St. Elizabeth). Ursuline was undefeated against Delaware teams but may not be the top seed in the tournament based on the point system used by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association. Noonan said he was unconcerned with points or seeding.
“We always go back to the same thing,” he said. “We have – and we know this and believe this to be true – we have the toughest schedule in the state. We feel like we’re prepared.”
Hahn joined Abram in double figures with 13. Taylor Samuels led Sanford with seven points; Lewis added six.
Wednesday was the last night of the regular season. Teams are now awaiting the seedings and playoff schedule from the DIAA. The postseason is scheduled to tip off Feb. 27.