NEWARK – In a season that began with a series of challenges, the Ursuline basketball team was able to overcome injuries and transfers to earn the seventh seed in the DIAA state tournament. The Raiders reached the semifinal round with a stunning victory over No. 2 seed Sanford last weekend.
But the season came to a conclusion on March 9 at the Bob Carpenter Center with a 40-37 loss to the third seed, Conrad, who moved on to a date Monday night against No. 1 Caravel for the state championship. The loss brought to an end the Raiders’ three-year reign as state champs.
Both the Raiders and the Red Wolves suffered through shooting woes in the first half. Ursuline scored just three points in the first quarter – a three-point shot by Allison Olmstead that gave them a brief one-point lead – while Conrad was chilled in the second stanza, making just one of 12 attempts. The score was just 17-15 Red Wolves at the break.
The shooting heated up a bit in the third. Olivia Mason took a pass from Maggie Connolly and knocked down a jumper to level the score. Stefanie Kulesza untied it with a layup, but Connolly tied it up again. Julie Kulesza then scored for Conrad, but Olmstead once again gave the Raiders a one-point advantage with her second triple of the evening. In all, the lead changed hands 10 times in the third, and Conrad was up, 29-28, heading into the fourth.
That would hold up throughout the final eight minutes, thanks primarily to the Red Wolves’ success from the foul line. Conrad started the quarter with Stefanie Kulesza draining a three-pointer – the team’s only made trey in 16 attempts – and the lead was four.
The Kulesza sisters helped keep the Raiders at bay as Ursuline attempted to close the small gap. Stefanie Kulesza made all four free throws she attempted in the fourth, while Julie hit four of five. Julie Kulesza made all three after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer. She hit the first of two with 2.5 seconds remaining, putting the lead at three. Her only miss came on the second attempt, and a 60-foot desperation heave by Ursuline bounced hard off the backboard.
Olmstead led the Raiders with 11 points. Connolly scored nine points in the final game of her storied high school career, while Mason contributed eight. The Raiders finished the season 11-11.
Julie Kulesza led the Red Wolves with 14, and her sister had eight. Conrad improved to 20-3.