WILMINGTON – Superior guard play can take you a long way.
It took Ursuline to a 39-26 victory over Redondo Union (California) on Tuesday night at the Diamond State Classic.
The opening-round victory in the Saint Francis Healthcare Cup, the tournament’s eight-team national bracket, moved the Raiders (3-1) into the semifinals against St. Rose of Belmar, New Jersey, at 2:15 p.m. Thursday.
Junior Maggie Connolly and sophomore Alisha Lewis handled the ball expertly against the Sea Hawks’ ferocious pressure and combined for 32 points as Delaware’s top-ranked team proved to be too much for the visitors from California.
“We have two very experienced, very skilled, confident guards,” Raiders coach John Noonan said. “In high school, they can control a game. That’s exactly what those two kids did tonight.”
Redondo Union came charging at the ball at all times early, but Ursuline knew what to expect.
“We knew they were going to be a good team. We practiced against their pressure,” said Connolly, who finished with 22 points. “From the scouting report, we knew they were a high-pressure defense. I think we were well-prepared from our coaching staff.”
The Raiders led 8-5 after one quarter, with both teams playing lockdown ‘D.’ Ursuline began to assert itself a little more offensively in the second quarter, as Lewis fed Connolly for a layup with 1:11 to play and Connolly hit an off-balance scoop shot with the clocking ticking down for a 20-12 halftime lead.
“They were up in our face, hands up all the time,” Lewis said.
The Raiders led 28-20 with 2:14 left in the third quarter, but Redondo Union made a major push. The Sea Hawks scored four points in the final 4.4 seconds of the quarter, as Jasmine Davis hit two free throws and Alyssa Munn turned a turnover into a buzzer-beating layup to pull the Californians within 28-26.
“We had some lapses, for sure,” Noonan said. “We gave them a layup, threw the ball away underneath the basket. … We were a little concerned with the depth, because they have more than we do.”
There was no need to worry. Connolly scored all 11 points in the fourth quarter, as the Raiders played some stout defense of their own. Ursuline held Redondo Union to 9 of 33 from the field (27.3 percent) for the game.
Connolly salted it away from the free-throw line, making 6 of 6 over the final 3:35.
“We shoot a lot of them in practice,” she said. “We practice them, and I want to score for my teammates.”
Lewis added 10 points for the Raiders, who will be looking to avenge a 47-31 loss to St. Rose in last year’s third-place game in this tournament.
“They’re a good team,” Noonan said of the Purple Roses. “They’re definitely a challenge, and we’re looking forward to it. This is all a measuring stick.”
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: Wilmington Friends 52, St. Mark’s 43
New Castle Insurance Cup: Cape Henlopen 52, Perryville (Maryland) 19
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: St. Rose (New Jersey) 44, Cumberland Valley (Pennsylvania) 29
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Ventura (California) 53, Monsignor Scanlan (New York) 44
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Ursuline 39, Redondo Union (California) 26
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup: Roland Park Country School (Maryland) 58, St. Elizabeth 44
New Castle Insurance Cup third-place game: St. Mark’ vs. Perryville (Maryland), 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: Wilmington Friends vs. Cape Henlopen, 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 (Pennsylvania) vs. Redondo Union (California), 10:45 a.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup losers’ bracket: Monsignor Scanlan (New York) vs. St. Elizabeth, 12:30 p.m.
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup winners’ bracket: St. Rose (New Jersey) vs. Ursuline, 2:15
Saint Francis Healthcare Cup winners’ bracket: Ventura (California) vs. Roland Park, 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