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Hot-shooting Saint Mark’s girls move on in DIAA basketball tournament with win at Brandywine: Photo gallery

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BRANDYWINE HUNDRED — The Saint Mark’s girls basketball team scored more than 40 points just twice in 13 regular-season games, but point production was not an issue March 3 when the 22nd-seeded Spartans visited No. 11 Brandywine. They put up 23 points in the first quarter alone on the way to a 61-30 victory in the second round of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.

Ally McGonigle got the scoring started for the Spartans with a 12-foot baseline jumper, although Brandywine’s Arionna Williams was able to tie the score with 5:46 to go on two free throws. The Spartans, however, would put up the next 12 points, half of those coming on a pair of three-pointers by Ava Berardi.

Guard Armani Bell-Jackson went inside for the Bulldogs’ lone field goal of the quarter with 2:10 to go, but the first ended in fine fashion for Saint Mark’s. Lauren McDonald drained a triple, and for good measure, she stole an inbounds pass and scored at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 23-5 advantage after one.

Berardi said offensive production was a theme at recent practices.

“It was a full week of just shooting drills. In past games, we haven’t been on our A game. I don’t know, maybe it’s the pressure of a playoff game, but we didn’t let it get to us, I guess,” she said.

The Spartans’ shooting cooled in the second quarter, but they remained steadfast on defense. Their press caused several Brandywine turnovers, and the Bulldogs were unable to cut into the deficit. One of the lone negatives for Saint Mark’s was the foul situation, as both Berardi and fellow starter Mackenzie Beamer picked up three fouls before halftime.

Layla Dallam opened the second half with an old-fashioned three-point play for the Bulldogs, but there would be no comeback win. The Spartans’ Alyssa Cresto made certain of that, as she scored eight of her team-high 13 points in the third. The prettiest might have been the last one, a scoop shot under a Bulldogs defender.

The large lead allowed Spartans coach Jim Freel to get significant minutes for the entire roster, and Ellie Cummings took advantage by hitting a three-pointer midway through the fourth.

Nine different players scored for Saint Mark’s. Along with Cresto, Berardi reached double figures with 12. The Spartans improved to 6-8 and will visit sixth-seeded Archmere on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Auks defeated the Spartans, 48-36, on Jan. 19 in Claymont.

In that game, the Spartans led by a point at halftime. Berardi said they need to do a better job playing all 32 minutes.

“The first half, I remember, we played really well. I think, honestly, we just got tired. But we’re different right now,” she said.

“Those girls are quick, they’re really athletic, so I think we just need to work on getting back. I think it will be a good game, competitive.”

Bell-Jackson had nine points and Williams eight for the Bulldogs, champions of the Blue Hen Conference Flight B. They closed out the season at 12-2.

All photos by Mike Lang.