WILMINGTON – The Wilmington Friends girls basketball team came into the Diamond State Classic at 0-2.
The Quakers left as the New Castle Insurance Cup champions on Wednesday after holding off Cape Henlopen 31-26 in the four-team bracket’s championship game at the St. E Center.
“It totally changes the spirit of this team,” Friends coach Carolyn Connors said. “It gives us a ton of confidence to go into the rest of the season, to know that we can compete with teams like Cape Henlopen and teams like St. Mark’s.”
Friends (2-2) got past St. Mark’s 52-43 in its tournament opener on Tuesday, as Natalie DePaulo scored 23 points. DePaulo was at it again Wednesday, finishing with 13 points and 18 huge rebounds on the way to the bracket’s MVP honors.
“It was tough,” DePaulo said. “They had a couple of really tall people. I just tried to work my strength inside, box out and get those loose balls.”
The Quakers got off to an incredible start. Margaret Sullivan drove for a layup, Jayna Jones scored on an inbounds play, DePaulo hit a free throw, Alice Irwin banked in an 18-footer and Sullivan dropped a 15-footer as Friends took an 11-0 lead.
“That was a big confidence booster for us, because we knew they were going to be tough coming in,” Connors said. “That was a really good start for us.”
Cape Henlopen (4-3) couldn’t get the lid off its basket until Niya Mosley made a jumper with 2:07 left in the first quarter. It was totally different than Tuesday, when the Vikings scored 14 points in the first 2:46 on the way to a 52-19 victory over Perryville (Maryland).
“The last two days was a perfect example of what we’ve been going through this season, our inconsistency,” Cape coach Lauren Carra said. “We had a high yesterday, and today was one of the lows.”
The Vikings trailed 18-4 with 4:22 left in the first half, but scored the next seven points and climbed within 18-11 on an NBA-range 3-pointer from Sydney Pedersen at the halftime buzzer.
Friends’ lead fluctuated between five and seven points for much of the second half, but Cape pulled within 28-26 on a free throw by Dania Cannon with 2:18 to play.
But the Vikings, who hit just 12 of 44 (27.3 percent) from the field, couldn’t score again. DePaulo scored off of Sullivan’s assist to put it away.
“It’s going back to the fundamentals,” Carra said of her team’s approach going forward. “It’s playing the game of basketball and knowing where you’re supposed to be and when you’re supposed to be there.”
Jones added nine points and six rebounds for Friends, while Mosley scored eight for Cape.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.