BEAR — The St. Elizabeth girls basketball team had not played since Jan. 21 when it arrived at Caravel Academy for a Feb. 11 showdown with the Buccaneers, but when the dust settled, the Vikings had gutted their way to a 59-58 overtime win over the Buccaneers.
The victory wasn’t a certainty until a potential game-winning floater from Caravel’s India Johnston fell halfway through the hoop before bouncing out as the buzzer sounded. It marked the end of a contest that lived up to what one would expect between the No. 1 (St. Elizabeth) and No. 5 (Caravel) teams in Delaware Live’s top 10.
The Bucs took a 40-37 lead into the fourth quarter thanks in large part to their ability to earn more than two points on multiple possessions in the third quarter. Johnston, who has committed to Division I Towson University, had two old-fashioned three-point plays in the third to go along with a three-point shot, while Caitlin St. Leger and Julia Nask each added a triple.
The hosts stretched the lead to eight in the opening minutes of the fourth. After the Vikings scored, Laila Glover, Caravel’s strongest inside presence, laid a shot off the glass, and Johnston drained a three to make it 45-39. Naia Pulliam got two back for St. Elizabeth before Johnston hit from long distance on the other side of the court. Glover added a free throw to extend the lead to eight with 4:50 to go.
The Vikings began the climb back when Olivia Lynch banked a runner off the glass. Januarie Tate, who came up with a few clutch buckets during the game, made two free throws on a night where St. E’s struggled from the line. Perhaps more significantly, Glover committed the foul, giving her five, and the Buccaneers lost their most effective inside presence.
Lynch fed Rory Ciszkowski for a layup to cut the Bucs’ lead to 49-47. A steal by Farrah White led to the tying field goal. White’s outlet pass got past Lynch, who tracked it down as it was headed over the end line and passed it to Tate. Tate’s layup knotted the score at 49 with 2:18 to go.
Lynch ran the Vikings’ scoring streak to 10 and gave them the lead on a transition layup with 1:20 to go, but the Buccaneers battled back. Johnston — who had left the game briefly after taking an intended St. Elizabeth pass off her head — floated one from 10 feet softly through the hoop to tie the score again. The Vikings held for the last shot, but Lynch’s three-point attempt rang off the rim.
The Bucs scored first on two free throws, but Pulliam took an offensive rebound and turned that into a three-point play to put St. E’s ahead by one. Two possessions later, Pulliam snagged another offensive rebound, laid the ball in and extended the lead to 56-53. Undeterred, Johnston calmly pulled up three feet behind the arc and swished another three-pointer to tie it again.
The next Viking up for a big play was Farrah White. The sophomore found herself all alone on the left wing and hit a triple of her own, and the St. Elizabeth lead was 59-56 with 1:20 to go. Johnston had a steal and made two free throws for the Bucs’ final points, but the Vikings left the door open for Caravel by missing four free throws and committing a turnover in the final 16 seconds. The Buccaneers, however, had a turnover and a missed shot before Johnston just missed giving the home team a buzzer-beating victory.
Pulliam led the Vikings with 22 points, and Ciszkowski and Tate added a dozen each. The trio, along with Lynch, also owned the rebounding advantage. St. Elizabeth (5-0) will visit Saint Mark’s on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Johnston had four three-pointers and shot eight of nine from the free throw line on her way to 32 points. Glover added 13. The Buccaneers (4-3) also play Saturday, heading to nearby Red Lion for a noon start.