WILMINGTON — St. Elizabeth’ girls basketball team may have a bunch of new faces, but the Vikings picked up where that crew left off last season, taking a 55-47 win at rival Ursuline on Jan. 12.
St. Elizabeth was one of the teams still alive when the DIAA girls state tournament was canceled last March as the coronavirus began to take hold in Delaware. Six members of that team graduated, and a new set of leaders began to emerge on opening night at Ursuline.
A freshman, Ericka Huggins, was in the starting lineup for coach Dan Cooney, and she got the scoring started with a free throw almost two minutes into the contest. Both teams were plagued by turnovers in the early going, and the first field goal didn’t come until the 4:06 mark. That came from senior Olivia Lynch of the Vikings, who inbounded the ball off the back of an Ursuline defender, caught it and knocked in a layup.
That seemed to wake up the Vikings’ offense. Naia Pulliam picked off an inbounds pass from the Raiders, and she finished the drive by finding Lynch for a layup. Hannah Kelley then scored the first field goal for Ursuline on a 12-foot jumper. The teams were running and gunning after that. Lynch finished with eight in the quarter for St. Elizabeth, which opened up a 10-point lead, only to see Raiders freshman Chamira Marshall Brothers cut two points off of that with a long buzzer-beating shot.
The second quarter got off to a slow start reminiscent of the first, with the teams combining for just six points in the first four-plus minutes. But again, the offenses overcame some turnover problems to put points on the board.
Rory Ciszkowski put the Vikings up eight with a fast-break layup. Naia Pulliam hit a pair of free throws for St. E. After two Raiders free throws, Huggins had a three-point play to push the lead to 11. Ella Gordon scored four straight for the Raiders to cut the deficit to seven, but a Ciszkowski corner triple, and blocks from Januarie Tate and Pulliam, helped the visitors take an 11-point halftime lead.
The Raiders had reason to celebrate as the second half opened. Senior Lauren Dorsey scored off the glass in close for her first points of the evening. Dorsey returned this season after missing her entire junior campaign with a knee injury. Emily Rzucidlo scored on a scoop shot after going end-to-end, and then Rzucidlo drove the baseline and found Dorsey wide open in the corner for a three-pointer. The Vikings’ lead was down to 33-29, and St. Elizabeth called a timeout.
Out of the break, Pulliam hit a contested triple, giving the Vikings three much-needed points that ended the Raiders’ run at seven.
That seemed to steady St. Elizabeth. The Vikings, playing without Lynch, who was on the bench with four fouls, stretched the lead as the quarter went on. Ciszkowski got open underneath with about 20 seconds to go, and her layup put her team on top, 47-35, which is where it stood heading into the fourth.
The offenses went quiet in the fourth, but eventually the Raiders began a comeback. After a Vikings free throw, Ursuline scored the next 10. Rzucidlo scored on a leaner with 4:50 to go. Gordon hit a runner that cut the St. E lead to 48-40, then she found the range from three with 3:30 remaining. Nearly a minute later, Gabby Paolella put one off the glass and in, and the deficit was just three points.
A free throw from Lynch ended the run, but Rzucidlo drove the lane for two to cut the Vikings’ lead to 49-47. But those would be the final Ursuline points. Huggins would hit St. Elizabeth’s only field goal of the quarter, and Lynch went 4-for-4 from the line in the last minute to seal the win.
Pulliam finished with a game-high 16 points for the Vikings. Lynch (13) and Ciszkowski (10) joined her in double figures. The Vikings (1-0) will host Red Lion on Friday in the home opener. It begins at 7 p.m.
For the Raiders, Gordon had 13, while Dorsey added 8. The Raiders (0-1) will remain at home for their next game, which is Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Delaware Military Academy.