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Defense leads young Raiders to thrilling victory at Diamond State Classic: Photo gallery

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Abby Grillo puts up a shot from just beyond the foul line for Ursuline against Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

GREENVILLE — Ursuline’s basketball team entered its game on Dec. 29 sporting a 6-0 record, and its closest game was an 11-point win at the She Got Game Classic. The Raiders ran into perhaps their biggest test at the Diamond State Classic against Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Pa.), a defending Pennsylvania state champion, and emerged with a 47-44 victory in front of a large and boisterous crowd.

The Raiders took a 2-0 lead off the opening tip on a layup by senior Hannah Kelley, but points would not be that easy to come by in the Tatnall School gymnasium. Two free throws by Abby Sharpe with eight seconds remaining put the Colonials on top, 8-7, after one. The quarter featured more impressive defense than offensive firepower.

But the Colonials, members of the Suburban One League outside Philadelphia, found the range as the second quarter began, scoring the first seven points as part of a 9-0 run to open up a 15-7 lead. Sharpe, who was the primary weapon for P-W, hit a long three-pointer, and Erin Daley followed with a mid-range jumper. The next time down the floor, McKenna Winland hit a cutting Sharpe for two more.

A Raiders steal, however, led to a three for Abby Grillo. Taylor Brown stole a pass immediately thereafter and drove the lane for a left-handed scoop shot. Sharpe answered a bit later with another three from way behind the line, but an 8-2 run over the final two and a half minutes evened the score at the break. That stretch included triples for Brown and Emma Anthony, and a runout layup for Gigi Banks with 28 seconds remaining.

Brown put the Raiders on top for the first time since the score was 7-6 by stealing a pass and going the length of the court in the opening minute of the second half, then repeated the sequence on the Colonials’ next trip down the floor. Winland returned the favor to tie the game at 24. The teams and crowd were in for a wild ride the rest of the evening.

Banks turned a steal into an assist to Taylor as Ursuline took a 28-24 lead with about five minutes to go in the third. The Colonials found success on multiple occasions by going back door to keep it close. Brown drained another long three-pointer with 25 seconds to go in the third, and the Raiders led, 33-28, after three.

Banks kept the defensive theme going in the fourth, poking the ball loose from a Colonial and taking the ball in for a layup. Another Brown three ball with four minutes to go made it a 10-point Raiders advantage. But that was not enough to put Plymouth-Whitemarsh away.

A 10-foot turnaround shot by Sharpe with 3:03 on the clock opened the comeback attempt. Daley followed with her own turnaround from almost the same spot. After a few empty possessions for each team, Brown hit a runner to get the lead back to eight. Daley deked around a defender with 1:11 to go, making the score 45-39.

Daley scored out of a timeout to cut two more off the Raiders’ lead, and Plymouth-Whitemarsh spent nearly 20 seconds fouling enough to put Ursuline into the bonus. On the first one-and-one, Banks made both ends, restoring the six-point lead with 26 seconds left.

Still, the Colonials battled. Sharpe’s excellent night continued with one more long three. P-W got the ball back with five seconds left and a chance to tie, but an attempt to tie from near midcourt bounced off the front rim, and Ursuline could breathe a sigh of relief.

Brown led the way with 19 points, including three three-pointers, to go along with the assists and steals. Banks reached double figures with 10. The Raiders (7-0) are back at Tatnall on Friday to meet Academy of Notre Dame (Pa.) in the Diamond State Classic.

For the Colonials, Sharpe, who will play collegiately at Penn, finished with 25, and Daley added 15.

All photos by Mike Lang.