The top-ranked Ursuline basketball team swamped its first nine in-state opponents by an average of 37.2 points, with the closest margin of victory of 15.
But the final three games of the regular season are considerably tougher for the Raiders, who are 18-1 and riding a 17-game winning streak. Ursuline trailed 20-14 after one-quarter before overcoming No. 2 Sanford 50-40 last Thursday. The Raiders led No. 4 Caravel by 11 going into the fourth quarter Saturday, then had to withstand the Buccaneers’ rally for a 40-36 win.
Another challenge awaits at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, as Ursuline travels to No. 6 Concord (16-2).
“Most good teams get better as the year goes on, and you find out some stuff about yourselves,” Ursuline coach John Noonan said. “The way our schedule works, this is just how it falls… You want a high level of competition all the way through because you don’t want to be complacent going into the [state] tournament.”
The two-time defending champs should definitely be ready when the DIAA Girls Basketball Tournament begins on Feb. 28. Ursuline has defeated opponents from New York, California, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Raiders’ only loss was a 54-49 setback on Dec. 11 against Rufus King High of Milwaukee, which is 21-0 and ranked 22nd nationally by USA Today.
Noonan was happy to see his team come back against Sanford, which has a noticeable size advantage. He expects to clash with the Warriors again in the playoffs.
“We’re two different teams,” Noonan said. “We’re going to see each other again, I’m sure, and there’s going to be some matchup issues. We like to do one thing, they might do something else. It’s just punch, counterpunch.”
Sanford (16-3) took a 14-game winning streak into Thursday’s showdown. The Warriors played without 5-foot-9 sophomore Olivia Tucker, who has been out for two weeks and watched the game in a walking boot.
“We’re hoping that she can return, but if she doesn’t we have to play the hand that we’re dealt,” Sanford coach Marcus Thompson said of Tucker. “We have to be ready to come out there and play, and I think our girls did that.”
A.I. boys forfeit
The A.I. du Pont boys basketball team has forfeited Tuesday’s scheduled regular-season finale against No. 1 Smyrna following two incidents at Delaware Military Academy last Thursday.
“We’re investigating it with our kids,” A.I. athletic director Mark Alley said Friday. “There was an issue with some of our basketball players and their actions.”
An A.I. player was ejected during DMA’s 58-46 victory. Then after the game, a brief scuffle reportedly broke out involving A.I. players and fans. Alley said school administrators are reviewing tape of the incidents and will talk with players when school resumes Tuesday.
The forfeit leaves Smyrna with an 18-2 record, while A.I. drops to 11-9. The Tigers are likely to qualify for the 24-team DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament, but Alley said the school may decide to not participate.
“There’s a good possibility our team is going to also pull out of the tournament, but we don’t know at this point,” Alley said. “It’s still under investigation.”
Tommie Neubauer, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, said DIAA received a report on the ejection on Friday.
“We allow the local school to handle it first, and then we assess anything after that,” Neubauer said. “So right now, this is an A.I. du Pont situation. And from what I understand, from everything given to me, they are fully aware of what has happened.”
Dooley retiring from mat
William Penn’s Marvin Dooley announced his retirement as a wrestling coach at the Blue Hen Conference tournament over the weekend.
The eight-time Blue Hen Coach of the Year and 2007 Division I Coach of the Year has a 246-94 record in dual meets over 23 years as a head coach. His teams have won 13 conference titles, and he has coached nine state champions and 47 Blue Hen champs.
Dooley was a two-time state champion at 185 pounds under former William Penn coach Jack Holloway in 1986-87. He also coaches football and baseball at the school.
Rounding it up
— Middletown’s Dante Immediato became the 11th four-time champion in the 57-year history of the Blue Hen Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday. Immediato, who won the state title at 126 pounds last season, will be the No. 3 seed at 138 pounds in this weekend’s DIAA meet at Dover High.
— Howard wrestler Tyler Clifton was awarded the fourth annual Tim Bisson Scholarship at the Blue Hen tournament. The $2,000 scholarship goes to the senior who has transformed their life over their high school career to become a positive role model, as Bisson did at A.I. du Pont.
Bisson’s parents, Nancy and Butch, also donated $1,000 to Attack Addicition, a local organization that works to increase awareness of drug and alcohol addiction and treatment options.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ