WILMINGTON — Padua put together another stellar defensive effort, and the Pandas repeatedly pounded the ball inside in a 48-30 win over Caravel on Jan. 23 in Wilmington.
Offensively, the Pandas relied heavily on Michelle Kozicki. The senior displayed an array of spin moves inside, laying the ball off glass, and she also hit some mid-range jumpers as the Buccaneers struggled to keep Padua — ranked sixth in the state by 302Sports.com — from sending the ball into the key over and over again.
On the defensive end, any number of Pandas stepped up against the fourth-ranked Buccaneers. The foursome of Brooke Emmi, Skylar Salvo, Tess McMenamin and Kate MacLennan continually clogged the passing and dribbling lanes, while Kozicki and Haley Quickel did the dirty work inside. It all added up to a solid win over a quality opponent.
“We know that our offense is not as well-developed as other teams. The only way we’re going to come out on top is if we go in with an aggressive D and make sure to stop them from scoring as much as possible,” Kozicki said.
“It just all comes together when we play together on defense.”
Kozicki established her domain off the opening tip, rebounding a missed three-pointer and sinking a short turnaround follow 13 seconds in. The game resembled a track meet for a few minutes and was tied, 6-6, when the Pandas made a move.
Salvo put her team ahead for good, grabbing and uncontested rebound and making a layup. Next up was MacLennan, who took a pass in stride from Kozicki was cutting to the hoop for another layup. India Johnston nailed a triple to pull the Bucs within a point, but the Pandas ended the first on a 7-0 run, including a three from Emmi.
A free throw by Emmi early in the second extended the lead to 18-9 before Alaina Alston ended the run with a three-point shot. The Pandas’ offense was in hibernation much of the quarter, as they made just three field goals, and the Buccaneers made a move.
Trailing, 21-16, they got a baseline six-footer from Taylor Wilkins, who was fouled on the play. Wilkins missed the free throw, but Giniah Gale grabbed the rebound and laid the ball in to make the score 21-20. But the Pandas responded. Quickel took an inbounds pass and made a slick leaner, and Emmi turned a steal into two points seconds later to make the score 25-20 at the half.
Johnston and Kozicki – who sat the last three and a half minutes of the second with two fouls – both returned for the third quarter, and they were the story on offense. Johnston scored all six of Caravel’s points, while Kozicki continued to go inside, putting up eight in the stanza.
Johnston scored on a runner 10 seconds into the fourth quarter to pull the Bucs to within seven at 35-28, but the visitors would manage just one more field goal the rest of the night. When Padua wasn’t disrupting Caravel’s dribbling and passing lanes, they were holding the Bucs to one shot on offense.
On the other end, Kozicki continued her offensive assault, and others contributed as well. They continued to harass the Buccaneers, causing a host of turnovers that kept the lead comfortable.
Kozicki led the scoring with 20 points, while Emmi added 10. The Pandas (6-5) host Tatnall on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.
For the Buccaneers (6-6), Johnston had 13 points, and Wilkins had 10. They host St. Elizabeth on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.