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Padua gets 42 from Michelle Kozicki to defeat Polytech, advance to DIAA girls basketball quarterfinal

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Padua's Michelle Kozicki (10) scored 42 points in a state tournament game against Polytech. The two-sport standout was named Padua's most valuable athlete on May 14. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

WILMINGTON — Michelle Kozicki scored eight of Padua’s first 10 points in the sixth-seeded Pandas’ second-round matchup with Polytech in the DIAA girls basketball tournament on March 6. That was just a sample of things to come, as the senior put up a career-best 42 to lead the Pandas to a 67-45 win over the Panthers at Salesianum School.

The night began with Kozicki doing Kozicki-like things. She won the opening tip, and a few seconds later there she was spinning away from a defender to make a 10-foot jumper. After a couple of misses, she grabbed a rebound on the defensive end and sprinted the length of the floor for a scoop layup. The next bucket came off a short turnaround shot off the glass, and Brooke Emmi followed a Kozicki miss after a Polytech turnover and turned that into two more points, prompting a Panthers timeout.

Kozicki’s final points of the quarter came after another Polytech miscue. She stepped in front of a Panthers pass, then streaked the other way for layup.

Brooke Emmi takes a shot early in Padua’s tournament game against Polytech. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

Meanwhile, the Panthers could not buy a bucket. Everything they sent toward the hoop missed, and on other possessions they were stymied by an aggressive Padua defense. The Pandas caused several turnovers, and the only reason the score was just 14-0 after a quarter was the Pandas’ surprising number of turnovers they committed.

The Panthers, who were seeded 11th in the tournament, finally settled down and got their offense going early in the second. Jayla Scott drained a three-point shot, and Polytech’s 1,000-point scorer, Yaa Yaa Afriyie, got on the board with a layup in transition that cut the Padua lead to 14-5. Kozicki answered with a nice layup around a Panthers defender. Skylar Salvo then nailed a three to push the lead back to 14. The lead was 16 at the half.

Both teams cut down on turnovers heading into the second half, and the offensive stars continued their work. Kozicki had 10 points in the quarter, with six of those coming from the free throw line.

But the third belonged to the Panthers for the first four minutes. Jazmin Kellam, who spent most of the first half on the bench with three fouls, hit consecutive field goals to cut the Panthers’ deficit to 11 at 34-23. A single free throw from Jayla Scott and two from Kellam extended the Panthers’ run to nine, and Padua’s lead was down to eightm 34-26, halfway through the third.

Haley Quickel hit a corner three to end the run, and that began a 13-5 Pandas run to end the third.

The biggest question of the fourth quarter was how many points Kozicki and Afriyie would score. Kozicki added another 16 – half from the line – and Afriyie went for nine more.

Emmi had eight for Padua, which improved to 14-6. The Pandas will face the tourney’s third seed, Sanford, in a quarterfinal matchup on Monday at 7 p.m. at Tatnall School. Tickets are $6 and will be available at the door.

For the Panthers, Afriyie finished with 27 in her final high school game. Kellam added six. Polytech’s season ended at 14-8.

Three other Catholic schools played in the second round. Ursuline, the 19th seed, gave Sanford all it could handle before falling, 41-33. The Raiders were tied with the Warriors at 27 after three quarters, but Sanford pulled away in the fourth. Hannah Kelley led UA with 12 points. The Raiders finished the season at 10-11.

In Greenwood, Archmere came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 8 Woodbridge, 52-43. Four players reached double figures for the ninth-seeded Auks. Madison Stewart and Lauren Kim each had 14, while Fiona Teaney and Izzy Gioffre scored 10 apiece. The Auks (16-6), travel to the top seed, Conrad, Monday at 7 p.m.

The fifth seed, St. Elizabeth, had no trouble with No. 12 Lake Forest. The Vikings defeated the Spartans, 92-15, at the St. E Center. St. Elizabeth (15-5) will host the 20th seed, Caravel, on Monday at 7.