Ursuline was tantalizingly close to a huge victory in the Diamond State Classic girls basketball tournament on Saturday night.
The Raiders played evenly with a much taller team from Archbishop Spalding (Md.) for three quarters but couldn’t finish the job and fell 52-45 in the semifinals of the First State Orthopaedics Cup, the tournament’s main draw.
Ursuline, Delaware’s top-ranked team, fell to 3-3. But all of the Raiders’ losses have come against difficult out-of-state opponents, a fact that should toughen them as they try to repeat last year’s state championship.
“We’re trying to progress as a team, and we think playing the teams we’ve had on our schedule will benefit us in the long run,” Ursuline coach John Noonan said.
The Raiders certainly had their hands full with Archbishop Spalding (11-0). The Cavaliers pounded the glass for 15 offensive rebounds, and Ursuline could hit only 4 of 28 3-pointers against their aggressive defense.
“Their kids are bigger than our kids,” Noonan said. “They’re extremely athletic. Our kids were in front of them a lot of times, but they were able to jump over us. They were getting putbacks, a lot of second chances.”
Archbishop Spalding led 18-11 after the first quarter, but Ursuline rallied for a 25-23 lead on two free throws by Kailyn Kampert with 1:24 left in the half. The Cavaliers came back to lead 27-25 at halftime and took a 34-32 lead into the final quarter.
That’s when Archbishop Spalding turned up the heat on both ends. Two layups and a short jumper by Camille Calhoun sparked a 13-1 run and put the Cavaliers up 47-33 with 3:22 to play.
“We said, ‘Let’s stop shooting 3s. Let’s just take it to the basket,’ ” Noonan said. “It was a two- or three-point game, and then we gave up a driving layup and got beat in transition. You can’t give up two easy layups like that, uncontested.”
The Raiders pulled within six with 1:21 left but could get no closer. Adrianna Hahn led Ursuline with 20 points, while Jade Sciafe and Aleah Epps each scored 11 for the Cavaliers.
Archbishop Spalding will meet Bishop Ford (N.Y.) in the First State Orthopaedics Cup championship game at 5:30 p.m. today. Ursuline will take on Reynoldsburg (Ohio) for third place at 2:45.