GREENWOOD — Padua went on a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter, then made its free throws down the stretch to defeat Woodbridge, 59-44, in a matchup of two of the state’s top teams. It was the regular-season finale for both the sixth-ranked Pandas and the No. 10 Blue Raiders.
The host Blue Raiders fought back from a six-point deficit to tie the game at 39 on a three-point shot by Janeira Scott with 6:40 left in the game, but the Pandas were finally able to get some separation after that. Skylar Salvo started the game-deciding run with a free throw, then she followed that with a mid-range baseline jumper to push the score to 42-39.
Pandas senior Michelle Kozicki continued another big performance after that. After Salvo’s field goal, Kozicki intercepted a Woodbridge pass and was fouled as she went in for a layup opportunity. She made the two free throws. On the Blue Raiders’ next trip down the floor, Kozicki rebounded a missed shot and fired a long outlet pass to Brooke Emmi, who laid the ball in to make it 46-39.
A turnover resulted in two more Kozicki free throws, and after another Pandas point from the charity stripe, Kozicki turned an offensive rebound into a layup. The Blue Raiders finally got back on the scoreboard when Scott hit one of two free throws with 1:59 to go.
The final two minutes took a while to complete as both teams made multiple trips to the free throw line. The Pandas foiled Woodbridge’s attempts to get back into the contest by making six of eight free throws in the final 1:55. Kozicki missed just one of 19 free throw attempts on the night.
It was a tight game until the Pandas’ late run. The game was tied twice in the opening minutes until Padua built a small lead. The first quarter ended on a Scott lay-in that cut the visitors’ lead to 14-11.
Haley Truver provided a spark off the bench for the Pandas, draining a mid-range jumper to restore the five-point advantage at the outset of the second. But after a timeout, the Blue Raiders stormed back, taking advantage of second and third chances on the offensive end while the Pandas went cold from the field. Payton Keeler hit a three, and Cha’Kya Johnson scored on a follow shot to tie the score at 16 with 4:30 remaining.
Kozicki started a seven-point run in the final minutes of the half with an old-fashioned three-point play, followed by a transition layup by Emmi and a put-back, also by Emmi. But the Bridge responded with the final six points of the half. Johnson was responsible for four of those on a three-point play and another free throw.
Both offenses were a bit slow out of the break, but two Blue Raiders free throws two minutes apart gave them their final lead of the evening at 26-25. Kozicki put the Pandas back on top with a pair of free throws, and she added her second triple of the night to stretch the lead to four. The Blue Raiders stayed close, eventually tying the contest, but Padua prevailed.
Kozicki scored 32 points to lead all scorers, while Emmi had 13. For the Blue Raiders, Johnson (14) and Jillian Baker (10) reached double figures. Both the Pandas (13-6) and Blue Raiders (16-4) will learn their state tournament seedings when they are released on Friday afternoon.