Delaware State News photos/Marc Clery
NEWARK — At the beginning of the season the Sussex Tech girls’ basketball game set a goal to make it to the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center.
The Ravens did just that and earned the experience of playing in the DIAA state tournament quarterfinals. Unfortunately for them, it came against state power Ursuline Academy.
Ursuline, the tournament’s top seed and two-time defending state champions, knocked Sussex Tech out of the tournament with a 55-27 result on Saturday night.
“We didn’t want to have to pay to get in — we wanted to make it here to play,” said Sussex Tech coach Chester Davis. “And we did that. We knew playing Ursuline would be a battle. They are tremendous.”
Ursuline advanced to play No. 4 seed Sanford in the semifinals on Wednesday night. Sussex Tech, the eighth seed, finished its season at 16-6.
It is the second year in a row Ursuline ended Sussex Tech’s season. The Ravens were eliminated by Ursuline in last year’s second round, 70-30.
But there was a bright spot for Sussex Tech.
After Ursuline dominated the first half, the Ravens played evenly with the defending champions in the second. Sussex Tech outscored Ursuline 15-9 in the third quarter.
Ursuline started the third quarter with five unanswered points before a 13-0 run by Sussex Tech as it held the Raiders scoreless for more than six minutes.
“What we’ll remember from this is the way we played in the second half,” Davis said. “We could have folded and gone through the motions the last two quarters but we didn’t. These kids have done that this whole year. This is probably one of the best groups I’ve ever coached.”
Ursuline’s defense allowed it to race out to such a big lead. Sussex Tech shot 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) in the first half and slumped to a 17-3 deficit after the first quarter.
Sussex Tech went scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second quarter until Rukiya Davis converted a layup with less than a minute left. By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Ravens trailed 33-6.
Ursuline forced 17 turnovers in the first half and scored 17 points off those turnovers.
“We wanted to let them know that, ‘Hey, we’re Ursuline and we’re comfortable here,’” Ursuline coach John Noonan said about his team’s fast start. “This is where we think we belong. This is where we want to be. We want to let you know, ‘Hey, it’s going to be 32 minutes and I hope you’re up for the challenge.’”
Ursuline’s Maggie Connolly was the game’s top scorer with 17 points. Her teammate Alisha Lewis was the only other player in double figures with 12 points.
Mi’Cah Shelton paced the Ravens with six points while Lakendra Harpe and Davis added five apiece. Jayla Mullen chpped in four points.
The trip to the quarterfinals was another highlight for Sussex Tech’s turnaround in recent years. The Ravens were 3-17 overall just two years ago and last season was its first winning record since 2003.
Davis said he hopes his team will always remember the experience of playing at the University of Delaware.
“They won’t remember the score,” he said. “They’ll remember Ursuline won but hopefully they’ll remember that Tech played the way they were capable of playing in the second half. That’s what we wanted to get out of this. We wanted to get acquainted with playing at the Bob hopefully. I felt when our kids relaxed in the second half we were able to make a run and make it a game.”
Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at email@example.com