Home Local Sports Long-distance shooting, strong defense key in Ursuline’s season-opening win over Padua

Long-distance shooting, strong defense key in Ursuline’s season-opening win over Padua

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Michelle Kozicki of Padua goes up in traffic as Ursuline's Emma Raftovich (23) and Kaleigh White (13) defend. Kozicki led all scorers with 23 points. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

WILMINGTON — Ursuline opened its 2019-20 basketball season on Dec. 10 against Catholic Conference foe Padua, and the young Raiders used prolific three-point shooting and suffocating pressure defense to its advantage in a 57-47 win.

The teams played an even first quarter, with the Pandas scoring mainly on shots from the paint and mid-range jumpers. Ursuline, on the other hand, scored its first point on a free throw, but they did most of their damage from long distance. They scored four three-pointers, with Morgan Gracey, Kaleigh White, Emily Rzucidlo and Hannah White contributing one apiece. Ella Gordon added a two-point shot before the quarter ended.

Ella Gordon lets a three-point attempt go for Ursuline in the Raiders’ game against Padua on Dec. 10. Tess McMenamin defends for the Pandas. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

The long-distance bombs helped the Raiders open up a 13-6 lead, but the Pandas responded before the quarter ended. They scored seven straight, including a three from Tess McMenamin, to tie the score, and the teams traded short field goals before the quarter ended.

Ursuline took control in the second. Kozicki scored for the Pandas, but those would be the team’s only points of the quarter. Kozicki spent about half of the second on the bench with two fouls, and the Raiders confounded the Pandas with their defense.

It took more than two minutes for the first bucket of the quarter, which came on another three out of the hands of Gordon. Ursuline’s shooting was not as accurate as in the first, but they were able to keep the Pandas from doing much of anything. Ursuline scored the final nine points of the half.

Kozicki returned after halftime and paid immediate dividends, scoring inside to make the score 27-19. She was big in the third as the Pandas tried to come back, scoring six points. A three-pointer later in the quarter from Kate MacLennan brought Padua to within 29-26, but White answered with an old-fashioned three-point play to restore the six-point lead.

MacLennan hit a baseline runner later in the third to once again bring the Pandas within three at 33-30, but the Raiders had some offense in the tank. Emily Rzucidlo, who was stellar all night with her defense and quarterbacking duties on offense, drilled a triple, and after Rzucidlo rebounded a Pandas miss, she fed Ella Gordon for another three. The lead was eight heading into the fourth.

Kozicki began a big fourth quarter with a mid-range baseline jumper. She scored 11 of the Pandas’ 13 points, hitting three shots from the field and going five-for-five from the free-throw line. But Ursuline took advantage of her foul trouble, going underneath for buckets from, among others, Hannah Kelley and Gabrielle Paolella, who picked up her first high school points. The Raiders also went four-for-five from the free-throw line.

Kozicki had 23 points to lead the Pandas, who fell to 2-1. Padua is off until Dec. 20, when they play St. Elizabeth in the home opener at 7:15 p.m.

Three Raiders were in double figures. Gordon had 13, Rzucidlo added 12 and White 11. Ursuline visits Howard on Thursday for a 4:45 p.m. tip.