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Ward-Mayo paces St. Elizabeth on both sides of ball in win at Ursuline

Julie McCarron of St. Elizabeth defends against Ursuline's Kay Wulah. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

WILMINGTON – After building up an early lead, the St. Elizabeth girls’ basketball team spent much of the night of Jan. 20 playing catch-up at rival Ursuline. But Ber’Nyah Ward-Mayo put the Vikings ahead by two points on a transition layup, and it was at a most opportune time. There were just four seconds left in the contest, and when the Raiders’ last-second attempt was deflected, St. Elizabeth had itself a hard-earned 47-45 win.

It was the second time the teams had met this season, and like the first, it was close. The Vikings and Raiders battled at the Diamond State Classic on Dec. 29, and that game needed three overtimes before St. Elizabeth won by 10.

Abby Rzucidlo works around a screen set by teammate Kay Wulah in the Raiders’ game against St. Elizabeth. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Ward-Mayo was spectacular all night, contributing in a variety of ways. She picked up an early assist on a behind-the-back pass to Julie McCarron in the first quarter as the Vikings were on their way to building an 18-8 lead. She contributed as usual in the scoring column, and she was a pest defensively all night, consistently turning defense into offense.

But it was the Raiders making noise after falling behind by 10. Led by Emily Rzucidlo, they chipped away at the deficit. Rzucidlo began the comeback with a runner. Lauren Dorsey turned an offensive rebound into two easy points. Courtney Brown was true from 15 feet. Ashley Campbell hit a free throw, and Mayo added a layup to end the Raiders’ run at six points, but the hosts were not deterred.

Ursuline scored eight points in the final 1:08. The first three came on a long three-point shot by Rzucidlo. She picked up the next two after grabbing an offensive board. Then it was her sister Abby’s turn. Another turnover by St. Elizabeth gave the Raiders possession. During a scramble in the key, Ursuline forward Kay Wulah grabbed the loose ball and flung it to Abby Rzucidlo, who put up a three-pointer of her own to put the Raiders in front at halftime, 22-21.

The third quarter was evenly played. The Raiders turned a 24-24 tie into a 30-24 lead thanks to buckets underneath from Emma Raftovich and two from Wulah. But the Vikings climbed back from long distance, as McCarron and Ward-Mayo added three-pointers before the stanza ended. The Raiders led, 34-32, heading into the final quarter.

Ward-Mayo began the fourth quarter with a steal that she turned into an easy field goal to knot the score. Wulah scored, and a minute and half later Avery Burns connected from three-point land to put the Raiders back on top, 39-34, with just over six minutes on the clock.

Rory Ciszkowski answered with her own triple, but Burns hit from the exact same spot the next time down the court. Down, 42-39, Ward-Mayo stripped an opponent of the ball at midcourt and went in for another layup. Emily Rzucidlo extended the lead back to 45-41 with her second triple of the night with 2:20 on the clock, but those would be the last points for the Raiders.

A steal by Ashley Campbell turned into two more points for Ward-Mayo. After an Ursuline timeout, Ward-Mayo intercepted the inbounds pass and tied the score with 1:04 to go. The Vikings regained possession with 38 seconds to go and ran the clock down to eight seconds before the ball was knocked out of bounds off a Raider trying for a rebound. McCarron inbounded the ball to a cutting Mayo, who banked the winning shot home as she was knocked to the floor.

She missed the free throw, and Wulah snared the rebound. The Raiders worked the ball to Lauren Dorsey, but her three-point attempt appeared to be deflected by Naia Pulliam to bring the nail-biter to an end.

Ward-Mayo led the Vikings with 19 points, while McCarron joined her in double figures with 12. St. Elizabeth (8-2) travels to Howard on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m.

For the Raiders (3-7), Emily Rzucidlo had 12 points. Burns added nine on three three-point shots.They host St. Mark’s on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.