BRANDYWINE HUNDRED – When Conrad visited Padua on Jan. 29, it took three overtimes before the Pandas prevailed by seven points, so the teams’ first-round playoff matchup on March 1 figured to be one of the better games on the schedule. The teams didn’t disappoint, going two extra periods before Conrad was able to squeak out a 73-70 win at Brandywine High School.
The game had a bit of everything, and each played a role in the final outcome. No. 18 Conrad – which features three eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade students and just one senior – battled the veteran and 15th-seeded Pandas, who started three seniors. The teams combined to attempt 59 free throws, 43 for Conrad. For every missed shot there was a big made field goal. The contest even included a technical foul on the Pandas because a player’s uniform number didn’t match what was in the official scorebook.
It all led up to a second extra session in front of a loud postseason crowd that included several members of the St. Elizabeth Vikings, who were to host the winner on Thursday night. Conrad opened the second OT with a 6-2 run that included a three-pointer by Jordan Rook and a field goal by Julie Kulesza. The lead was still four, 70-66, when Padua tied things up on consecutive field goals by Anastasia Mavridis and Gabby Julian.
Conrad’s lone senior, Sarah Kautz, answered with a short jumper with 7.8 to go, and Conrad could smell the second round. The Pandas called a timeout and had 6.5 seconds to go the length of the court, but the Redskins eliminated any chance of a third overtime with a Kulesza steal of the inbounds pass. Kautz sealed the victory with a free throw. She missed the second, and the last half second ran off the clock.
It looked at halftime as if this might not be that close. A big second quarter lifted Padua to a 10-point halftime lead, but the Redskins erased it in the third quarter, finishing that stanza on an 11-0 run to take a 43-40 advantage into the fourth. Kautz was huge in the third, scoring eight points, all from three feet or less as the Redskins consistently grabbed rebounds and fed the ball inside.
Conrad took a 47-42 lead a few minutes into the fourth before Padua bounced back with consecutive three-point shots by Megan Mallon and Julian, whose trey came with 5:15 to go in regulation. The teams went back and forth for several minutes, with Padua scoring only six free throws, until Bella Julian’s three-pointer put the Pandas ahead, 57-56, with 51 seconds to go.
Padua stole the ball from Conrad on the next possession, but the Redskins poked it loose from Mallon, who was called for a questionable intentional foul. Alyssa Faville hit one of two free throws to tie it up, and Conrad nearly won at the buzzer when a layup attempt by Alexis Oakley rolled off the rim.
Gabby Julian put Padua ahead, 60-57, by opening the first overtime with her third triple. The Pandas’ offense went cold after that as leading scorer Mallon joined classmate Mackenzie Scully on the bench after fouling out. Oakley scored a second-chance bucket off a Padua turnover to put the Redskins in front, 61-60, with 35 seconds to go, and a Kautz free throw made that lead two. With time running out, Mavridis broke free after a Padua steal and took a long pass, sinking a layup with eight seconds remaining to send it to double overtime.
Kulesza, who played CYM basketball at St. Ann’s, led four players in double figures with 24 points. She was joined by Rook (18), Kautz (14) and Faville (11). Oakley, who had six, was the only other Redskin to score. Conrad (15-6) advances to meet No. 2 seed St. Elizabeth on Thursday at the St. E Center at 7 p.m.
For Padua, Mallon closed out a sensational season and career with 27 points. Bella Julian had 14 points, and her cousin, Gabby Julian, scored 13 in her final high school game. The Pandas finished the season with a 9-12 record.
In other first-round action, Archmere, the 20th seed, upset No. 13 William Penn, 42-39. Danaziah Brown led the Auks with 15 points, while Amanda Denning added 10. Archmere came back from a five-point deficit at the end of three quarters for the win. The Auks will play at No. 4 Concord Thursday at 7 p.m.
Other second-round games involving Catholic schools include No. 1 Ursuline hosting No. 17 Sussex Tech and No. 5 St. Thomas More playing host to nearby Dover, seeded 12th. They are also Thursday at 7 p.m.