WILMINGTON – Padua's basketball team went from the highest of the highs to a very low in a matter of seconds Wednesday night in a first-round game in the DIAA girls' basketball tournament against Sussex Tech. After freshman Megan Mallon – in the game only because leading scorer Emma Matthews had fouled out nine seconds earlier – nailed her team's only three-point shot with 15.9 seconds left to give them the lead at 44-43, the Pandas were feeling pretty good.
Things looked even better for Padua when Sussex Tech's Castaysha Lewis appeared to lose the ball out of bounds as she attempted a shot with under eight seconds remaining. The referees ruled the ball had been tipped, and the Ravens retained possession. After a timeout, speedy Sussex Tech guard Thomeka Floyd managed to break free and took the inbounds pass in stride in the key, laying in the bucket for a 45-44 Sussex Tech win.
The loss overshadowed a stellar comeback by Padua, which trailed, 42-35, midway through the fourth quarter. The Pandas, seeded ninth in the tournament, finished the season at 9-12.
The final sequence capped what was a very close, entertaining game at Brandywine High School, which hosted due to the apparent unavailability of Padua's gymnasium. Spectators saw early what would be a recurring theme throughout the contest.
Padua held a decisive height advantage over the 24th-seeded Ravens and continuously went into the lane looking for shots. They jumped out to a 6-2 first-quarter lead on three layups by Emily Thiemann, but then lost their shooting touch, going more than eight minutes of game time – a full quarter – without a point. Meanwhile, Sussex Tech (10-11) showcased its superior speed, with Lewis and Floyd doing most of the damage on the evening, consistently getting open for shots and getting to loose balls.
The low-scoring first half ended tied at 15, but the teams lit up the scoreboard in the third, with each putting up 17 points. The Ravens were balanced, with Floyd, Lewis and Alijae Cannon scoring five apiece, and Ciera Lewis adding two. Matthews took over in the third for Padua, scoring 11 of her team-leading 18 points in the third.
That set up the dramatic final quarter, when Sussex Tech took advantage of poor Pandas shooting to take the seven-point lead. Padua tightened up the defense after that, scoring back-to-back field goals, first a short jumper by Bridget Novielli off a five-second call, then in transition after a steal by Matthews.
The frantic final minute followed, along with the emotions that would come with it.
Floyd led all scorers with 20, with Cataysha Lewis also reaching double figures for the Ravens with 13. Thiemann finished with 10 for the Pandas.
Sussex Tech moves on and will play at Smyrna (18-2) Friday at 7 p.m.
No. 17 Concord 62, No. 16 Hodgson 51
No. 15 St. Andrew's 53, No. 18 Delaware Military Academy 47
No. 14 William Penn 61, No. 19 Indian River 50
No. 20 Delmar 57, No. 13 Wilmington Charter 49
No. 12 Caesar Rodney 67, No. 21 A.I. duPont 42
No. 11 Sussex Central 59, No. 22 Tower Hill 38
No. 10 Glasgow 52, No. 23 Tatnall 41
No. 24 Sussex Tech 45, No. 9 Padua 44
Second-round games are Friday at the home of the higher seed. All games are at 7 p.m.
No. 17 Concord (13-8) at No. 1 St. Elizabeth (16-4)
No. 24 Sussex Tech (10-11) at No. 8 Smyrna (18-2)
No. 20 Delmar (14-7) at No. 4 Ursuline (14-5)
No. 12 Caesar Rodney (12-9) at No. 5 Appoquinimink (15-4)
No. 15 St. Andrew's (16-5) at No. 2 Sanford (15-5)
No. 10 Glasgow (17-4) at No. 7 Seaford (18-2)
No. 14 William Penn (14-7) at No. 3 Caravel (15-5)
No. 11 Sussex Central (17-4) at No. 6 St. Mark's (12-8)