St. Elizabeth’s girls basketball team answered every challenge it faced during the 2021 season, so there was no reason to think anything would change in the DIAA state championship game March 12 at Dover High School. The Vikings overcame a six-point fourth-quarter deficit against No. 3 Sanford, and they traveled back home to Wilmington with a 47-45 victory and the first-place trophy.
The Vikings, the top seed in the tournament, went to a full-court press after falling behind, and it paid dividends. Naia Pulliam began the comeback with a three-pointer, and after a turnover, Ericka Huggins found herself alone underneath for a layup. Another miscue led to a free throw for Huggins, leveling the score at 42.
The next trip down the floor, Sanford’s Abby Meredith was driving the lane when she lost the handle on her shot, giving the ball back to St. Elizabeth. Senior Olivia Lynch and Pulliam teamed up on a pick and roll, with Pulliam finishing with a scoop shot. She was fouled on the play, and after completing the three-point play, the Vikings were back on top, 45-42. There was 29.5 seconds remaining.
A free throw from Warriors guard Zy Kilgoe took one point off the Vikings’ lead, but Lynch came up big the next time down the floor, much as she’s done throughout the season. She drained two clutch free throws, putting the Vikings in a a two-possession advantage. The Warriors scored the final points on a layup with .4 seconds to go.
It took a few minutes for the offenses to get untracked after a quick opening field goal for Lynch. The Warriors scored the next nine points, with Meredith swishing a three-pointer among a trio of two-point buckets. Sanford’s Audrey Holveck and Huggins traded three-pointers before the quarter ended with the Warriors on top, 12-11.
Dallas Pierce heated up for the Warriors in the second, scoring seven of her team’s nine points. Five of those came after the Vikings had taken an 18-13 lead on a pair of triples by Lynch. St. E was ahead, 22-21, at the intermission.
Zy Kilgoe opened the second-half scoring with a transition layup following a steal. After Amiya Carroll capitalized on a fourth offensive rebound on the same possession, Vikings junior Rory Ciszkowski tied the game at 27 with a three-pointer.
The Vikings held the lead into the final minute, when the Warriors regained possession and held for the final shot.
With the clock running down, Meredith drove into the lane. She put up a scoop shot and was fouled with 3 seconds left. The three-point play put the Warriors in front by a point as the final quarter began. They increased the lead to six in short order as Kilgoe went for three, and Jada Snow turned a second chance into a 38-31 lead.
Lynch finished a strong postseason with 14 points to lead the Vikings, while Pulliam had 13 and Huggins 10.
For the Warriors, Kilgoe had 13. Snow and Dallas Pierce each added nine. Sanford completed the season 16-2.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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