WILMINGTON — Saint Mark’s girls basketball team held a 27-14 lead over Wilmington Charter when starting forward Bella Prado went down with an ankle injury. The Force slowly chipped away at the lead, finally forging a tie in the first 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
But the Spartans regrouped, retaking the lead on a runner by Sophia Messick, and they would prevail with a 34-32 victory.
Without Prado’s presence, the Force sent the ball down low to their bigs to stage the comeback. Danielle Kanse opened the game-tying run with a field goal, followed by a pair of free throws for Catie Cole. Next, Wilmington Charter turned a rebound into a runout bucket for Veronica Sanchez-Wright, prompting a Spartans timeout.
Morgan Robinson struck next, hitting a three-point shot to cut the lead to 27-23, and with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, a stolen inbounds pass turned into two more points for Kanse. Charter began the fourth with possession, and they grabbed three offensive rebounds while trying to tie. Finally, on their fourth chance, Sanchez-Wright was fouled, and she made both free throws to level the score at 27 just 24 seconds into the quarter.
Saint Mark’s finally ended the Force’s scoring streak when Sophia Messick hit a runner with 6:43 to go. Wilmington Charter suddenly went cold, but they finally tied the score again on a pair of Sanchez-Wright free throws with 3:55 on the clock.
Hailey Short put the Spartans up for good with a 12-footer at the 2:50 mark, but the final minutes would be stressful for the Saint Mark’s faithful. Leah DePaul came up with a big defensive play on the Force’s next possession, forcing a jump ball, with the Spartans regaining possession. Rey Johnson capitalized, scoring from in close on a follow shot to extend the lead to four.
Sanchez-Wright again drained two free throws, and Charter had a chance to tie after stealing another inbounds pass. Tamiyah Burley went one for two from the free-throw line, and the Saint Mark’s lead was a single point. Lauren McDonald restored the two-point advantage with a free throw with 34.7 seconds left, but Charter wasn’t done.
The Force missed two free throws late, but they got three offensive rebounds after the second miss. They had one more chance in the closing seconds, but a Force shot just brushed off the front of the net.
Saint Mark’s held a 9-6 lead after one quarter, with Sophia Baffone accounting for five of the points on two field goals. The lead was 19-13 late in the second quarter before the Spartans went on an 8-1 run spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, with Messick scoring the first two points in transition after a steal near the end of the first half, and McDonald and Baffone each nailing threes early in the third. Charter began their comeback after that.
Baffone had nine to lead the Spartans, with Messick adding eight and McDonald seven. Saint Mark’s (4-1) travels to Conrad on Dec. 20 for a 5:15 p.m. tip.
For Wilmington Charter, Kanse had 12, and Cole contributed seven. The Force fell to 1-2 and are off until Jan. 12, when they host Brandywine for a 3:30 p.m. start.
All photos by Mike Lang.