WILMINGTON — Padua welcomed A.I. duPont to Broom Street on the night of Feb. 6 for some top-10 girls basketball, and for a half, it looked like the visiting Tigers would run away from the Pandas. But Padua staged a rally that covered much of the second half, riding the offense of Abby Grillo and the steadying hand of Abby Hayes to a 70-65 overtime win.
After a close first quarter that ended with A.I. up by three, the Tigers turned up the pressure in the second. Sydney Hilliard and Amanii Brice did most of the damage. Hilliard pounded the ball inside time and again, getting Padua into some foul trouble, and Brice connected a few times from three-point distance in addition to making four foul shots.
Combine that with an aggressive pressure defense and some Pandas being on the bench in foul trouble — including point guard Hayes — the Tigers were able to steadily extend their lead to as many as 17.
The Pandas got a big three-pointer from Grillo just before the half, but they trailed by 13 at the break. They opened the third quarter with four free throws to get back within single digits, but A.I.’s Laila Selby-Blaylock sandwiched a pair of threes around a field goal from the Pandas’ Kai Dwirantwi to get the lead back to 13.
Padua played some defense of its own in the third, cutting their deficit down to nine once more after a steal by Grace Trerotola led to a transition layup for Grillo. They were down just five as the end of the third quarter approached, but Selby-Blaylock drained a long two at the buzzer, and the Tigers entered the final eight minutes up seven.
Grillo got the scoring started with 6:15 to go when she got open underneath, the start of a 10-1 run that put Padua in front, 53-51. The run included Dwirantwi getting a second-chance bucket, a Grillo triple to tie it at 51 with the assist to Dwirantwi, and Grillo going off the glass on an inbounds play for the lead with 3:43 left.
The Pandas built their lead to six, 59-53, which was the score with just 1:12 left when Keniya White scored. The Tigers then forced a Pandas turnover and turned that into a mid-range jumper by Hilliard, and A.I. trailed by a pair with a minute to go.
Those were the last points until a Padua free throw with 19 seconds left. Ny’Aijah Jackson tied it up with 2.6 seconds left on a corner three, and Grillo had a shot blocked at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
Hilliard scored first with two free throws, but Trerotola put the Pandas on top for good with a long three-pointer. That was the lone field goal for Padua in the extra session, but they made plays defensively and got to loose balls to hold off the Tigers. The Pandas made seven of 10 free throws as part of a 10-0 run to seal the thrilling win.
Grillo finished with 37 points, including 16 of 19 from the free throw line. Dwirantwi had 13, and Trerotola added 10. The Pandas (12-4) visit Hodgson on Friday at 5 p.m.
For the Tigers, Hilliard led three players in double figures with 24. She was joined by Brice (17) and Jackson (11). A.I. duPont (12-5) is home Wednesday afternoon vs. Brandywine at 4:45.
Photos by Mike Lang.