Caravel hopes to down Ursuline with defense

Caravel's Maia Bryson (right) defends against A.I. du Pont’s Sydney MacDonald in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Girls Basketball Tournament last Saturday.

Caravel’s Maia Bryson (right) defends against A.I. du Pont’s Sydney MacDonald in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Girls Basketball Tournament last Saturday.

Ursuline will be trying to win the DIAA Girls Basketball Tournament for the 17th time on Friday night at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Caravel will be shooting for title No. 1.

But don’t expect a massive difference in talent or experience. These teams played a close regular-season game three weeks ago, and the Buccaneers have reached the state final three times in the last five years.

That’s why Caravel coach Kristin Caldwell believes her third-seeded Bucs (17-6) have a good chance when the ball tips off at 7.

“I’m living the dream here,” Caldwell said. “I’m the head coach at Caravel Academy, and now we’re playing in some state championship games. The only thing is now, let’s win one.”

Caldwell scored 2,131 points at Caravel before graduating in 1999, third all-time in Delaware girls basketball behind only Elena Delle Donne and Khadijah Rushdan. The Bucs never won a title while she played, but their defensive performance in a 40-36 loss at Ursuline on Feb. 18 gives Caravel confidence.

It was Ursuline’s second-lowest point total of the season, and the closest any Delaware opponent has played the top-seeded Raiders (22-1).

“I thought our kids responded unbelievably on the defensive end,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to clean up some things offensively, but I liked the way we defended.”

Of course, Ursuline plays a little defense, too. The Raiders dismantled Sanford 48-16 in the semifinals on Wednesday, and will be shooting for their third straight championship.

“I think our kids are locked in right now,” Ursuline coach John Noonan said. “We had a couple of bumps along the way, not in terms of the loss category, but just personal stuff. We weren’t always completely motivated. I think that’s over now.”

Noonan is concerned with Maia Bryson, who has found the shooting backdrop at the Bob to her liking. The junior nailed four 3-pointers in a 54-40 quarterfinal win over A.I. du Pont, and hit two more in a 44-36 semifinal victory over St. Elizabeth.

“Bryson, we’ve got to run her off the 3-point line,” Noonan said. “We’re not letting her shoot.”

The Raiders also hope to keep point guard Karli Cauley from driving, and match up effectively with post players Grace Lange and Kaylee Otlowski.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers will rely on grit to win the rebounding battle and try to slow down the Ursuline guard trio of Alisha Lewis, Maggie Connolly and Yanni Hendley-McCalla.

“We have a couple of kids on our team defensively that are just weapons,” Caldwell said. “Kaylee Otlowski is a weapon. She can guard a guard, she can guard a forward, she’s blocking shots. Sasha Marvel has guarded the best guard on every team from all around the country, all these teams we play, and she’s done a great job on every single kid.”

The Raiders defeated the Buccaneers 53-41 for the 2015 title, when Lewis contributed as an eighth-grader. The sophomore is 11-0 in this tournament.

“There’s always expectations when you come to Ursuline, when you wear this jersey,” Lewis said. “The coaches demand everything from you, giving 100 percent at practice and during the game.”

Contact Brad Myers at Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ

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