GREENVILLE – St. Mark’s girls basketball season came to an oh-so-close end Wednesday afternoon when the Spartans fell, 33-32, at A.I duPont in the first round of the state playoffs. The Spartans, however, gave the Tigers perhaps more than anyone expected and had a chance to pull out a last-second upset.
As it turned out, sophomore Lauryn Griffin’s running 12-foot floater with 13 seconds to go was the difference, as the No. 13 Tigers advanced to play at No. 4 St. Elizabeth in the second round. That game will be played at the St. E Center, although it will not be tonight as scheduled. The date and time will be announced later. Vikings coach Dan Cooney and several of his players attended the game.
Griffin’s basket was the exclamation point in a topsy-turvy fourth quarter that saw St. Mark’s complete a comeback from an early 12-point deficit. The 20th-seeded Spartans, who finished the season 6-15, finally took the lead at 27-26 with five minutes remaining on a drive by senior forward Ann White, who beat Griffin inside. Griffin regained the lead for A.I. a minute later, but White answered again, this time with two minutes to go, and the Spartans held a 30-29 advantage.
The Tigers tied the game with a free throw, and on their next possession they took the lead by a point on another free throw, this one by Aaliyah Mercante. St. Mark’s again turned to White, playing her final game, who scored on yet another layup with 34 seconds to go to give the Spartans their final lead at 32-31.
A.I. missed a shot on its next turn, but the Tigers retained possession on a held ball on the rebound. They ran a play for their ace, Griffin, who circled around from the right side into the lane and let go with the running shot, which fell through as the clock reached 13 seconds. On their final try, the Spartans lost possession of the ball, and a prayer thrown up as the buzzer sounded was short and wide left. Only then could the Tigers and their fans finally rest easy.
The loss obscured a furious comeback by the Spartans, who found themselves trailing, 14-2, early in the second quarter. They fought back to score the last 10 points of the half, however, and were down just two heading into the break. A.I. duPont scored the first six points of the third quarter to extend the lead to eight, using their height to dominate the Spartans on the boards and create several chances inside. The Spartans gave the crowd a taste of what was to come in the final quarter at the end of the third, when Caelyn Brabson beat the buzzer with a three-point shot to bring St. Mark’s within a point at 22-21.
White led St. Mark’s with 13 points, while Griffin paced the Tigers with 12.
Archmere also played Wednesday night, and the 18th-seeded Auks advanced to the second round with a 35-24 victory over No. 15 Mount Pleasant. After playing even in the first quarter, the Auks pulled away in the second, outscoring the Green Knights, 10-1. Archmere will travel to second-seeded Caravel Academy, with the game currently scheduled for Friday night at 7.
The Auks received a balanced scoring effort against Mount, with no player reaching double figures. Freshman Amanda Denning led the way with nine points, while Audra Woodside added eight and Danaziah Brown seven.
Archmere improved to 13-8, while the Green Knights finished the year 14-7.
On the boys’ side, St. Mark’s stymied Laurel, 40-26, and moved on to the second round, where the Spartans will meet Sanford. The Spartans, seeded 13th, improved their record to 14-7. Sanford, the fourth seed, defeated St. Mark’s on Jan. 20 by a score of 37-33, the fewest points the Warriors scored in a game all season.