WILMINGTON — The girls basketball game between St. Elizabeth and Wilmington Charter on Feb. 1 was about more than control of the Diamond State Athletic Conference. It was a battle between one of Delaware’s blue bloods and a program that has been looking to break through for a few years now.
Charter entered the day with a 10-0 record, but St. Elizabeth represented their toughest challenge to date. The Vikings were 10-2.
And the Force nearly pulled it off. Charter hung with the defending state champions well into the fourth quarter before the Vikings pulled away at the free throw line. St. Elizabeth left Charter with a hard-earned 64-55 victory.
The Force scored six straight in the first quarter to take a 9-6 lead as the Vikings fought the turnover bug. Danielle Kanse, Catie Cole and Emma Brown all converted miscues into points during that run before St. Elizabeth called a timeout with 3:11 remaining.
The Vikings responded. Farrah White’s three-point shot put the visitors ahead, 11-9, as an 11-0 run to end the first gave St. Elizabeth a 17-9 advantage.
St. Elizabeth added the first four of the second quarter, extending the lead to 12, before a Cole free throw stopped the run. That kicked off a 9-0 run for Charter, with the first six points coming on layups as the Force got players behind the Vikings’ defense. Brown hit a follow shot to get Charter to within three at 21-18.
Ericka Huggins, who had a big day for the Vikings, stopped Charter’s run with a three-pointer. She added a pair of two-pointers, and Riley Eckhardt added another, to help St. Elizabeth maintain the eight-point lead at the half.
The Vikings surrendered two easy buckets after intermission, but Huggins struck again. She hit a two, followed by a three, to get the St. Elizabeth lead back to seven at 35-28. Sydney Hilliard and Rory Ciszkowsi both added short field goals as the Vikings’ lead went back into double digits at 11, and the Force called a timeout.
Brown scored twice from in close, and Kanse intercepted a pass and took it to the hole, cutting the Force’s deficit to five. Ciszkowski was able to get two points back before the quarter ended.
Kanse, who did most of her damage inside, stepped beyond the arc to open the fourth, and her triple cut the Vikings’ lead to 41-37. Shortly thereafter, Brown hit a turnaround jumper following another turnover, and Ava Lutrzykowski scored on a layup after a steal to tie the game at 45, sending the home fans into a frenzy. The Vikings called a timeout with 5:25 to go.
St. Elizabeth regained the lead briefly on a free throw, but Brown backed down a defender and scored to put Charter into the lead. Huggins, however, answered again, and Ciszkowski drained a triple as the Vikings went back on top, 51-47.
The Force fought back again. They scored the next four points, tying it once more on two free throws by Cole. Hilliard hit a mid-range jumper and Farrah White made both ends of a one-and-one, restoring the lead at four points (55-51) with a minute to go.
St. Elizabeth made nine free throws in 12 attempts in the final 40 seconds to secure the game.
Huggins had 22 points and a slew of rebounds to lead St. Elizabeth. She was joined in double figures by Ciszkowski (16) and Hilliard (14). The Vikings (11-2) are at Conrad on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.
Kanse led all scorers with 21. Brown powered her way to 18, and Cole had 10. The Force (10-1) look to get back into the win column at home on Thursday against Archmere. Tip is at 3:30 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.