WILMINGTON – In the most anticipated game on the Delaware girls high school basketball schedule this regular season, Ursuline proved once again why it is deserving of the top spot in the rankings. The Raiders overcame a six-point deficit after one quarter with lethal long-distance shooting to defeat No. 2 Sanford, 50-40, on Feb. 16.
The Raiders (17-1) drilled nine three-point shots against the Warriors, five by junior guard Maggie Connolly. Four of Ursuline’s distance shots came during a second quarter in which Ursuline outscored Sanford, 21-9, to take a 35-29 lead into halftime.
Raiders standout sophomore guard Alisha Lewis left the game with 4:36 to go in the second after picking up her second foul, but her team did not miss a beat in her absence. Kay Wulah came off the bench and promptly hit a teardrop baseline runner to pull Ursuline to within two at 25-23. Sanford then decided to hold the ball for more than a minute, drawing loud boos from the capacity crowd. The slowdown seemed to spark the Raiders.
After a Sanford turnover, Wulah drained a three to give Ursuline a 26-25 lead. A Warriors free throw leveled the score, but Yanni Hendley hit a three-pointer to put the Raiders back in front for good. Kryshell Gordy joined the party with a put-back, and Hendley struck again in the final 30 seconds of the half, banking in a three-pointer while getting knocked to the floor. She converted the free throw to push the lead to eight.
Connolly said overcoming the early deficit was really just a matter of confidence.
“I think it’s just energy and playing together as a team and having the confidence to shoot. That was a great team win for us. It was a lot of fun,” she said.
Raiders coach John Noonan said the lift Wulah provided when Lewis came out was huge.
“Kay Wulah, I couldn’t be happier for her,” Noonan said. “She’s playing with an injury. She’s worked really, really hard. She’s confident, and that’s really exciting as a coach.”
The scoring decreased significantly in the second half, with Ursuline outscoring Sanford, 15-11, over the final two periods combined. Connolly had seven of those for the Raiders.
Noonan was very pleased with the way his team played in a playoff atmosphere.
“They’ve been wearing this bulls-eye for a couple of years, and they rise to the challenge against all opponents,” he said.
The final three quarters for Sanford were markedly different from the first, when the Warriors blew out of the gate. They used their height to their advantage, consistently feeding forwards Samantha Pollich, Kendra Warren and Allie Kubek for layups or short jumpers. They even picked up a three-point shot from Warren, whose game is usually played in the low post.
Sanford was without sharpshooting sophomore Olivia Tucker, who is the team’s leading scorer at nearly 19 points per game. The three-point specialist is nursing a sprained right ankle, although she said after the game that she expects to be healthy in time for the state tournament, which begins in two weeks. Noonan said her absence changes the game for the Warriors.
“When she comes back, they’re going to have more of a threat against the zone from a shooting standpoint. Their big kids are a problem, but Olivia gives them another dimension,” he said.
Connolly finished the night with 21 points, and Hendley had 10. The Raiders continue with the toughest portion of their schedule on Saturday, when fourth-ranked Caravel visits for Senior Night. Game time is 7 p.m. They finish the regular season on Tuesday at No. 7 Concord, another of the state’s best girls teams. The Raiders like to finish the season against some of the toughest opposition.
“It’s definitely good for us. It helps us prepare a lot, and we’re ready. We’re excited,” Connolly said.
Three players – Park, Kubek and Pollich – each scored 11 points for the Warriors (16-3), who lost for the first time since Dec. 28, a span of 14 games. It was their first loss to a Delaware foe. They wrap up the regular season on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Padua.