NEWARK — Woodbridge traveled the farthest of the four teams to play in the DIAA girls semifinals at the Bob Carpenter Center on March 8, and in the opening minutes against Ursuline, the Blue Raiders’ long-distance shooting staked them to an early 8-1 lead. But once the red Raiders got settled in, their trademark pressure defense helped them turn the tide, gradually taking control on the way to a 62-47 win.
Ursuline will meet Sanford in the championship game on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Bob. Tickets are available at the University of Delaware website beginning at noon Thursday. It is the Raiders’ first trip to the finals since 2017.
Ursuline and Sanford have met each other four times in the championship game: 1992, 1994, 2012 and 2016. The Raiders are 3-1 in those matchups. Their last tournament meeting was just last year, a 43-26 Warriors victory in the semifinals. Earlier this regular season, Sanford defeated the Raiders, 59-51.
Ursuline’s shots weren’t falling early on Wednesday, but the Bridge was firing pretty good. Reghan Robinson made consecutive three-pointers in the opening 75 seconds to stake the Blue Raiders to an 8-1 lead before the red Raiders began the comeback.
Taylor Brown made a layup for Ursuline’s first field goal with four minutes remaining in the first. Her teammate, Jezelle Banks, stole a pass within seconds and laid the ball in, cutting the Blue Raiders’ lead to three. Shortly after that, Brown and Banks combined to tie the score at 10. Brown drained a three, and Banks drove for a layup, both following rebounds by Skylar Bolden.
Woodbridge took one more lead, going up, 13-10, on a three by Payton Keeler, but Ursuline scored on a free throw, then took its first lead on a three ball from Hannah Kelley. Both offenses were clicking in the first, and the red Raiders led, 21-17, after one.
A layup by Kamryn Spence pulled the Blue Raiders to within 23-21 with 6:47 left in the half, but Ursuline went on a 10-0 run to create some space. Banks started the run on a second-chance layup, and Bolden scored after an offensive rebound. She also added the next four points for the Raiders, who led by 10 at the break.
Woodbridge scored the first six points of the second half, and after a three-pointer from Robinson with 3:31 remaining in the third, they trailed by just five. The Blue Raiders, however, were unable to take advantage of two empty possessions by Ursuline, and the Raiders from Wilmington made them pay. They continued to drive down the lane, getting layups and free throws to build the lead to 11. Tianna Neal hit a three-pointer for the Bridge, but Emma Anthony answered with one of her own almost immediately for the Raiders. Brown finished the third with another driving layup as time expired, with those points made possible by the Ursuline defense.
Brown struck from beyond the arc in the first minute of the final quarter, extending the lead. Defensively, the Raiders made things difficult for the Blue Raiders, blocking shots and controlling the glass. Two free throws by Payton Keeler with 6:54 to go were the last points for Woodbridge until Delaney Larrimore scored on a follow shot with 2:28 on the clock.
Banks led the way with 21 points and five assists, while Brown added 17. Bolden chipped in with a double-double, going for 10 points and 10 rebounds. Anthony also reached double figures with 11 points, including three three-pointers. The Raiders improved to 22-1.
Robinson had 20 to lead Woodbridge. Iyanna Mims added 8 points with 10 rebounds. The Blue Raiders finished the season 20-4.
All photos by Mike Lang.