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Three-point shooting, free throws by Connolly lead Raiders past St. Elizabeth

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WILMINGTON – She might be the youngest player on the Ursuline roster, but Maggie Connolly showed veteran poise during Tuesday’s Catholic Conference showdown against rival St. Elizabeth. The eighth-grader scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, all from the free-throw line, as the top-ranked Raiders scored a 51-42 win at the St. E Center.

Connolly hit those 10 free throws in 12 attempts and was the go-to player after junior guard Adrianna Hahn fouled out in the closing minutes. Her first two free throws came in the midst of an 11-0 run and gave the Raiders the lead at 41-39, and they would not trail again. After a layup by freshman Kryshell Gordy made it 43-39, it was all Connolly, who scored Ursuline’s final eight points from the line while the large crowd – including numerous St. Elizabeth students – shouted encouragement on each attempt.

“I was nervous at first, but every time I walked up to the line my teammates would give me great words of encouragement, so I just kept replaying those words in my head,” Connolly said.

It was a typically tight game throughout the evening, with St. Elizabeth holding a small lead after each quarter. The fourth-ranked Vikings entered the fourth with a 34-30 advantage and extended it to 39-34 midway through before Ursuline took over. Kailyn Kampert single-handedly tied the game with two field goals, one from three-point range, before Connolly hit her first two free throws. The Raiders run reached 11 points, and their lead 45-39, before St. Elizabeth senior Sabrina Hackendorn ended the streak with a free throw.

Ursuline coach John Noonan said the Raiders deliberate pace in the first half was by design.

“We felt like if we came out of the gates with our normal defensive pressure, we might tire ourselves out, so we did not want to do that tonight,” he said. “We figured we’d let the game come to us in the first half and see where we are at halftime.

“They played zone, which kind of slowed the tempo down, which was fine. And then in the second half, we decided to pick the tempo up. When we can do that, we feel like we can fatigue teams. We get them a little bit out of sorts and then kind of find our rhythm. And that kind of happened.”

Noonan said his team might have been a bit tired after winning two games over the weekend in New Rochelle, N.Y., in the Ursuline sister school tournament, and the Vikings took advantage. They came out with vigor, feeding off the energy of a near-sellout crowd to take an 8-1 lead. But Ursuline rebounded, thanks in large part to its long-distance shooting, as Hahn hit back-to-back three-pointers.

Three-pointers would be a recurring theme for Ursuline all night. The Raiders hit 11 from distance – five for Hahn, three for sophomore Alyssa Irons and one each from Kampert, Connolly and Courtney Wallace. They managed just three field goals of the two-point variety, and two of those came in the fourth quarter.

Noonan said his team will go with three-point shots because they are not as big as other teams, and opponents give them the opportunity. The Vikings spent much of the night in a 2-3 zone, and the Raiders endured some early difficulties before those shots started falling.

It’s important that everyone contribute, Noonan said, even on a team with the talented Hahn. “If you’re going to win, you need more than one player to do it. You need Kailyn Kampert, you need Maggie Connolly, you need Alyssa Irons, you need Kryshell Gordy.”

St. Elizabeth was able to use its height throughout the first half to answer anything Ursuline threw at them. Irons’ first three-pointer tied the game at 12, but St. Elizabeth scored the next six. Irons tied the game on her own with two more treys, but St. Elizabeth would finish the first half with another six-point run. Senior Macy Robinson was particularly effective in the first half, when she scored 10 of her team-leading 12 points.

Ursuline would take its first lead at 30-29 on what else, a three-pointer, this one from Wallace, but St. E freshman Jordyn Humes answered immediately to restore the Vikings’ advantage, setting the stage for the Raiders’ comeback.

Hahn and Connolly led the way with 15 points each for UA.

Connolly was psyched to play in her second game of this storied rivalry and her first on the road. “Even though all the fans are against you it’s really fun and exciting.”

The Raiders won their 11th straight and are 15-3 heading into a home game Saturday at 7 p.m. vs. St. Mark’s. They hope to have senior Laura Hurff back in the lineup; Hurff said she suffered a concussion during the Ursuline tournament. Ursuline is scheduled to close out the regular season next Wednesday at 4 p.m. at No. 2 Sanford in what should be a superb basketball game.

The Vikings (13-5) are off for a week before traveling to Glasgow next Tuesday for a 5 p.m. tip. Their regular season ends the next day at home when Delaware Military Academy comes to the St. E Center.

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