MILLTOWN — After the opening tip on March 2 ended with players from Saint Mark’s and Delaware Military Academy both holding the ball on the floor, Sophia Messick entered the circle for the re-jump for the Spartans. The junior tapped the ball back to guard Haley Short, then rushed down the court and set up shop outside the three-point circle.
Messick got the ball back and swished her first long-distance offering of the night just 15 seconds in, and the Spartans never trailed in a 39-26 victory over the Seahawks in the first round of the DIAA girls state basketball tournament. The Spartans, seeded 14th in the 24-team field, will travel to No. 3 Wilmington Charter on Friday.
It was the Spartans’ second victory over the Seahawks this season. They won at DMA, 50-40, on Jan. 18.
Messick’s outside game was followed by a peek at the player who would become one of Saint Mark’s main weapons for the evening. Freshman Ava Frohnapfel used her height advantage to great effect all night, and she knocked down consecutive layups to extend the Spartans’ game-opening run to seven points. Geovanna Tjaden-Smith got the 19th-seeded Seahawks on the board with a baseline jumper, but this was a Saint Mark’s kind of evening.
The 12-5 first quarter gave the large Spartans student section something to cheer about, and they kept the volume up all night. They watched as neither team could generate much offense in the second, but a beautiful dish from Lauren McDonald to Frohnapfel with about a minute remaining in the half brought them out of their seats.
Messick said the players definitely feed off that kind of support. “The energy was there, and it helped us get the win.”
Sophia Manuel drained a three-pointer for the Seahawks three minutes into the third to pull DMA to within five at 19-14, but that would be their only field goal of the quarter. The Spartans finished the third on a 13-2 run, beginning with a steal by Messick, who went three-quarters the length of the court before beating a DMA defender with a behind-the-back dribble and laying the ball in off the glass. It was met with rousing approval by her schoolmates.
Frohnapfel added another layup, and Messick and McDonald each added a three during the run.
“I had height on everyone. I just had to turn and shoot,” Frohnapfel said.
Defensively, the Spartans were able to hold Seahawks freshman guard Maya Hill in check. She scored 10 points, with six of those coming from the free throw line.
Messick led Saint Mark’s with 15, and Frohnapfel added 13. The Spartans improved to 16-5. They are looking to avenge an early season loss to Charter when the teams tip at 7 p.m. Friday.
“If we have the tempo we had tonight, then we can compete with them,” Frohnapfel said.
“We’re ready,” Messick added. “We’re going to bring the energy, stay focused.”
Hill was the lone Seahawk in double figures. DMA finished the season 12-9.
All photos by Mike Lang.