The Ursuline basketball team is the defending DIAA champion and currently ranked No. 1 in Delaware.
But that means nothing this week, as the Raiders once again head into the great unknown at the Diamond State Classic.
The 26th annual girls basketball tournament runs Tuesday through Friday at St. Elizabeth, with Ursuline, again entered in the eight-team Saint Francis Healthcare Cup, the event’s national bracket.
“We want to represent our state, and we’re proud of Delaware,” Raiders coach John Noonan said. “We’re proud to be in that bracket, but it’s hard. It’s a tough, tough bracket.
“It could be an 0-3 week, or it could be a 3-0 week. We’ve just got to work hard, get out there and compete.”
Ursuline’s first game comes at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday against Redondo Union (California). The Sea Hawks (2-2) will be 2,733 miles away from home when they take the floor at the St. E Center. That alone is enough to earn Noonan’s respect.
“They’ve got a good crop of returning players,” Noonan said. “They play fast, push the ball, pressure on ‘D,’ so they sound like a very challenging team. You don’t come 3,000 miles to lose.”
The tournament hosts are back in the top bracket as well. St. Elizabeth (2-1), currently ranked third statewide, will meet Roland Park Country School of Baltimore at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“I put them back up in the top bracket because I want my group to be challenged,” Vikings coach Dan Cooney said. “The more they’re challenged, the better off we’ll be when state tournament time comes. This is going to be a great measure for us.”
Roland Park (6-1) will certainly be a tall order. The Reds opened the season with a 70-60 win over Ossining (New York), which had been ranked No. 5 nationally by USA Today. Their only loss came against nationally top-ranked Paul VI (Virginia).
“It’s nothing but positive,” Cooney said. “To go against great competition from out of state… just the experience of that, I can’t think of anything better.”
The Saint Francis opener at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday features 2014 DSC champion Cumberland Valley (Pennsylvania), which is 5-0, against St. Rose (New Jersey), which is 3-0 with a 69.3-point average margin of victory.
St. Rose, ranked 11th nationally by maxpreps.com, returns much of a team that thumped Ursuline 47-31 in the DSC’s third-place game last season. The Purple Roses had plenty of options but wanted to return for another go in Delaware.
“They were being invited everywhere, Arizona, Florida. Everybody wanted them,” Cooney said. “But the coaching staff and the kids wanted to come back to the Diamond State Classic. That shows a lot about what this group is putting together as a Christmas tournament. It’s one of the best in the country.”
The other Saint Francis opening-round game features Monsignor Scanlan (New York), which is 4-2, against the 9-1 Cougars of Ventura (California) at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Three other four-team brackets will be contested, as the DSC features a total of 20 teams. St. Mark’s, Wilmington Friends, Cape Henlopen and Perryville (Maryland) will compete Tuesday and Wednesday in the New Castle Insurance Cup.
Howard, William Penn, Padua and Institute of Notre Dame (Maryland) will go in the Delaware Cup, which will be contested on Wednesday and Friday. Caesar Rodney, Hodgson, Caravel and Damascus (Maryland) will play in the First State Orthopaedics Cup on Wednesday and Thursday.
Proceeds from the Diamond State Classic support the B+ Foundation, Special Olympics Delaware and Kay’s Kamp. The tournament is also participating in a food drive in conjunction with the St. Vincent DePaul Society. High school students who bring a canned good or non-perishable food item and show a valid school ID will be admitted free.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ
DIAMOND STATE CLASSIC SCHEDULE
All games played at the St. E Center, 1500 Cedar Street, Wilmington
New Castle Insurance Cup: St. Mark’s vs. Wilmington Friends, 9:45 a.m.
New Castle Insurance Cup: Cape Henlopen vs. Perryville (Maryland), 11:30 a.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Cumberland Valley (Pennsylvania) vs. St. Rose (New Jersey), 1:15 p.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Monsignor Scanlan (New York) vs. Ventura (California), 3
Opening ceremonies, 4:45
Special Olympics game, 5:30
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Ursuline vs. Redondo Union (California), 6:15
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: St. Elizabeth vs. Roland Park Country School (Maryland), 8
New Castle Insurance Cup third-place game: St. Mark’s-Friends loser vs. Cape Henlopen-Perryville loser, 10:45 a.m.
Delaware Cup: Howard vs. William Penn, 12:30 p.m.
Delaware Cup: Padua vs. Institute of Notre Dame (Maryland), 2:15
New Castle Insurance Cup championship game: St. Mark’s-Friends winner vs. Cape Henlopen-Perryville winner, 4
First State Orthopaedics Cup: Caesar Rodney vs. Hodgson, 5:45
First State Orthopaedics Cup: Caravel vs. Damascus (Maryland), 7:30
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup losers’ bracket: Cumberland Valley-St. Rose loser vs. Ursuline-Redondo Union loser, 10:45 a.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup losers’ bracket: Monsignor Scanlan-Ventura loser vs. St. Elizabeth-Roland Park loser, 12:30 p.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup winners’ bracket: Cumberland Valley-St. Rose winner vs. Ursuline-Redondo Union winner, 2:15
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup winners’ bracket: Monsignor Scanlan-Ventura winner vs. St. Elizabeth-Roland Park winner, 4
First State Orthopaedics Cup third-place game: Caesar Rodney-Hodgson loser vs. Caravel-Damascus loser, 5:45
First State Orthopaedics Cup championship game: Caesar Rodney-Hodgson winner vs. Caravel-Damascus winner, 7:30
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup seventh-place game: pairings TBA, 9:30 a.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup fifth-place game: pairings TBA, 11:15 a.m.
Delaware Cup third-place game: Howard-William Penn loser vs. Padua-Institute of Notre Dame loser, 1 p.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup third-place game: pairings TBA, 2:45
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup championship game: pairings TBA, 4:15
Delaware Cup championship game: Howard-William Penn winner vs. Padua-Institute of Notre Dame winner, 6