WILMINGTON — Padua battled back valiantly after falling behind Cape Henlopen by a dozen at halftime, but a spirited second-half effort could not keep the Pandas from a 48-38 loss to the Vikings on Dec. 29 at the St. E Center. The teams met in the consolation round of the IAABO Board 11 Cup as part of the Diamond State Classic.
With their all-state candidate, Michelle Kozicki, on the bench for most of the first half in foul trouble, the taller and quicker Vikings shot their way to a 27-15 lead. Kozicki returned at the start of the second half, and the Pandas’ fortunes improved immediately.
She grabbed a rebound on the first missed Cape shot and eventually hit a short turnaround jumper for her initial field goal of the game. She would add a pair of free throws shortly thereafter, but a runner by Cape’s Abbey Hearn would be the only other field goal in the first four-plus minutes of the quarter. When Brooke Emmi found a lane and drove for a layup, Padua climbed to within eight at 29-21.
Kozicki added two more field goals before the third ended, and the Vikings went ice cold from the field. Mekhia Applewhite finally scored on a third-chance shot in the closing seconds to put the Vikings ahead, 31-25, as the fourth began.
Ella Rishko started the scoring for Cape in the final stanza, but Kozicki was just warming up. She hit and old-fashioned three-point play, and her three-point shot with 5:47 to go pulled Padua to within 33-31. She also had the other seven Pandas points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a balanced attack from the Vikings. Applewhite had two twisting layups, and Hearn added a mid-range field goal. Dania Cannon wrapped up a fine offensive show with a slashing layup, and she made four free throws in as many attempts down the stretch.
Cannon was the primary weapon in the first half as well. She nailed three triples in the first quarter, finishing with 20. Hearn added 12 to go along with the difficult task of guarding Kozicki most of the night. Cape improved to 4-3 and hosts the Shipley School (Pa.) on Saturday at noon.
The Pandas (2-3) got 23 from Kozicki. They will try to end a three-game losing streak on the road at Indian River on Friday at 4:30 p.m.