WILMINGTON – After watching her team come out flat against St. Elizabeth on Saturday, Padua coach Emily Grugan was looking for a bit more jump in the Pandas’ step when they took the court Monday afternoon against Milford. An hour and a half later, the rookie coach was smiling as her team put 20 points on the board in the first quarter and dismantled a good Buccaneers team, 66-41.
“We came out very flat against St. Elizabeth, 23-6 in the first quarter, and that just can’t happen. We really worked on that at practice, starting fresh, starting intense and sharp, and I think the girls did that well. They executed the game plan very well at the beginning,” Grugan said.
Padua (6-2) was firing away all night, hitting nine three-pointers. Four of those belonged to junior guard Gabby Julian, who hit three in the first quarter alone. Her fourth, which came midway through the third quarter, was a bomb from approximately 30 feet. Julian’s toes were on the 10-foot line for the volleyball court, and she hit nothing but net.
Milford has been a high-scoring team this season, and the Buccaneers wasted no time getting on the board Monday. After winning the opening tip, Rajene Bowe took the ball and knocked down a layup approximately three seconds into the game. But Julian responded with her first triple on the Pandas’ initial possession, and the teams were off and running. Julian finished the quarter with 11, including two on a layup with the deft assist from Mackenzie Scully.
After Julian cooled off, it was Meg Mallon’s turn in the spotlight. Mallon scored nine of her team’s 14 second-quarter points, including an old-fashioned three-point play and a long-distance jumper. Mallon had three triples and finished with a team-high 19 points despite not scoring in the fourth.
The Pandas shut the Buccaneers down with a defensive effort that matched the offense. Their lead grew larger after each quarter, from 10 to 11 to 18 and, finally, 25. Milford was unable to mount any kind of comeback against Padua, which put up its highest point total of the season.
“We wanted to know that we could play lockdown defense and not give them an easy shot and make it hard for them. We really worked on defense, sitting down low and just keeping the ball in front. Really basic,” Grugan said.
“If you attack and you’re aggressive, that opens up other shots, other opportunities for your teammates, and that’s just what we did.”
Julian, enjoying a resurgence in her first year at Padua, finished with 18 points. Nine Pandas scored as Grugan was able to use her entire roster. The Pandas travel to St. Mark’s on Thursday for a 7:15 p.m. Catholic Conference battle with the Spartans.
Kala Fluitt led the Buccaneers with 14 points, while Xitlali Roman – the only senior on the floor – added 10. Milford (5-3) is off until next Tuesday, when Seaford visits for a 6:15 p.m. start.