WILMINGTON – Serena Pluta scored 23 points, and the Saint Mark’s Spartans employed a suffocating defense in a 50-34 win over Wilmington Friends in the opening round of the New Castle Insurance Cup bracket at the Diamond State Classic on Dec. 27 at the St. E Center. The Spartans will meet Charter School of Wilmington for the bracket championship on Saturday afternoon.
Pluta was dominant inside in the first quarter as the Spartans opened up a 19-5 lead from which the Quakers could never recover. The senior center used an array of moves to score 11 points, three on field goals. She also drew three fouls for a total of five free throws, and she made all five. Maddie Lenick added a pair of field goals for Saint Mark’s in the first.
Meanwhile, the Spartans clamped down on Friends, preventing the Quakers from getting too many open looks, and they limited Friends’ second-chance opportunities. The Quakers’ leading scorer, Kayla Farley, hit one three-point shot, but other than that they were held to a single two-point field goal. The defensive pressure continued into the second, as Friends managed just four points, all by Farley, who hit a jumper and two free throws. Saint Mark’s scored just eight points in the quarter, but that was enough to open up a 27-9 lead at the half.
Pluta spent part of the third quarter on the bench with three fouls, but Saint Mark’s got enough offense from Ava Berardi and others to keep the Quakers from drawing any closer. Pluta returned a few minutes into the fourth and scored the Spartans’ first eight points – four on inside moves and four from the line. Margo Gramiak came alive for Friends, driving the lane repeatedly and finishing with seven, all in the fourth.
Lenick finished with seven for the Spartans, who improved to 7-0. They are back in action on Saturday afternoon at 4 in a rematch with Charter. The Spartans defeated the Force, 34-26, on Dec. 17.
Caelan Grubb led the Quakers with 10 points, while Farley and Gramiak added seven. Friends fell to 2-3 and will meet Severn School (Md.) on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at the St. E Center.