It has been six years since a Delaware team won the national bracket at the Diamond State Classic.
St. Elizabeth is one win away after gutting out a 58-47 victory over Hoover High of North Canton, Ohio, on Sunday at the St. E Center.
St. Elizabeth (5-0), ranked No. 1 in Delaware, will try to score a major blow for the First State in the championship game against McDonogh School (Md.) at 5:30 tonight. Admission is $8 (children 12 and under free), and St. E’s home gym should be packed.
“It would mean everything,” St. E senior Sabrina Hackendorn said. “In all of my years here … we haven’t made it this far in this tournament. It would mean everything if we could go out there and win on our floor, because this competition is better than a lot of the competition we see in Delaware.”
St. Elizabeth knew it would be tough against Hoover (8-1), which edged a tough team from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 62-56 in the opening round. The visitors from Ohio started a 6-footer and a 5-11 forward and brought another 6-footer off the bench.
“That’s a big win for this program,” St. E coach Frank Aiello said. “They’re a really, really great team. You know how strong basketball is out in the Midwest.
“I don’t know how many people in the stands gave us much of a chance. But we felt if we really played well, we could play with them and have a shot. The girls just played their hearts out.”
Tonight, St. E could become the first Delaware team to win the Saint Francis Healthcare Cup bracket since Ursuline did it in 2007 – Elena Delle Donne’s senior season.
The 5-foot-10 Hackendorn was in the middle of it all Sunday, battling her way to a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds.
“I told everyone before the game, especially Alex [Thomas] and Alana [Speaks], our big girls, that we had to box out because they are bigger than us,” Hackendorn said. “They have some really good big girls down there. We watched them play before, and their inside game was really good.”
The lead changed hands 10 times in the first half, with a rebound bucket by Allie Farina giving Hoover a 27-26 lead at the half. St. E made a run in the third quarter, scoring seven straight to take a 38-33 lead when Macy Robinson scored off her own miss.
Hoover cut the lead to 41-39 early in the fourth, only to see St. E surge again. Robinson hit two free throws, and Gabby Julian nailed a 3-pointer. Then Thomas fired in another 3 from just right of the top of the key to push the St. E lead to 49-39 with 4:16 to play.
“I was open, and they kind of fell asleep on defense,” Thomas said. “I was open, so why not take it?”
Robinson added 12 points for St. E, and Thomas contributed 10 points and six rebounds. Julie Worley led Hoover with 11 points.