HOCKESSIN – On the morning of Feb. 18, John Noonan did not know if he’d see senior forward Kailyn Kampert in uniform for Ursuline’s girls basketball showdown at Sanford. Kampert herself wasn’t sure she’d be ready to play.
The funeral for Kampert’s grandfather, former Wilmington police chief Harry Manelski, had been held earlier at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington. Kampert’s teammates showed their support by attending the viewing and Mass, and Kampert supported them back by suiting up when the top-ranked Raiders met No. 2 Sanford on Thursday night. They were all happy Kampert was there, as the senior played a key role in Ursuline’s 55-44 victory in front of an energetic full house.
“It’s really been a tough week, and my team has just supported me through it all,” she said. “Just getting me through it, I couldn’t do it without my teammates. It’s been really hard, but they were there for me.”
Noonan said family is always first for the Ursuline basketball program, and he didn’t even ask Kampert if she planned on playing.
“She made the decision without any pressure from, certainly, the coaching staff, and I think that says it all. She loves her teammates, she loves playing basketball at Ursuline, and she played really, really well. I’m sure her grandfather’s smiling down and so pleased with her efforts today. She’s a fantastic kid and also a really good basketball player,” Noonan said.
Things didn’t start well for the Raiders. Sanford threw over and ran past the Ursuline press throughout the first quarter, making eight of 11 field-goal attempts on the way to a 17-9 lead. Noonan adjusted his defense to a half-court man-to-man set, and that, coupled with the Warriors’ shooting percentage dropping back to normal, allowed the Raiders to get back in the game.
“We were just giving up way too many easy baskets,” Noonan said. “We weren’t rebounding. They got us on inbounds plays, they got us in transition. You sit there and say, ‘This clearly isn’t working. So, let’s back off, play defense and challenge them.’”
A three-pointer by Maggie Connolly sent the game into halftime tied at 24, but Kampert played a key role in the comeback. She swished a pair of triples during the quarter, while on defense she helped clog the middle and countered Sanford’s talented front line of Chrishyanah Alston, Taylor Samuels and Samantha Pollich.
Sanford regained the lead at the start of the third quarter as Pollich hit an eight-foot follow shot. After Olivia Tucker dropped her second three-pointer to make it 29-26 Warriors, Ursuline went on a 14-2 run. Alisha Lewis answered Tucker’s triple with one of her own, and Maggie Connolly put Ursuline in front with another three. Kryshell Gordy split the lane for a layup, then Kampert followed with a pair of field goals. The first was a short fall-away, and on the second she was fouled. Kampert missed the free throw, but Olivia Mason was there for the putback. The lead was 40-31.
Kampert wasn’t done, knocking down her third three-point shot of the evening for the first points of the final stanza. Sanford was unable to put a dent in the Raiders’ lead.
For Ursuline, Lewis had a team-leading 16 points, while Kampert added 13 and Connolly 10. The Raiders remained undefeated against in-state competition, improving to 13-5 for the season. They travel to No. 5 Caravel on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. before closing out the regular season on Tuesday night at home vs. No. 3 Concord.
Sanford, which suffered its first defeat to a Delaware foe, received 20 points from Alston. The Warriors (15-4) close out the regular season at home on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against Padua.
Kampert said she loves the energy this game generates each season.
“Sanford’s obviously an amazing team. It’s always a big rivalry coming here or them coming to us, and it’s always right before the tournament. We definitely had to prepare for it really well. Practice was really intense. I think the rivalry will continue and we’ll definitely see them again.”