CR girls rally but fall short vs. powerful St. Elizabeth 67-58

WILMINGTON — The Caesar Rodney High girls’ basketball team was defeated on Wednesday night, but Bill Victory is looking at the big picture.

There’s a good chance this loss can help the Riders later on.

The Riders closed a 16-point deficit to a one-possession game but fell 67-58 on the road to St. Elizabeth in a nonconference matchup. It was the first loss of the season for CR (3-1) while St. Elizabeth improved to 3-0.

“This is the real deal when you play against St. Elizabeth,” Victory said. “We needed this test win or lose. I don’t mind losing as long as we learn. I think we learned some things that we didn’t know before we got here.”

It was a rematch of last year’s state tournament quarterfinals where the Vikings knocked off the Riders 58-36. The two teams also met earlier that season with Caesar Rodney earning an overtime victory.

The Riders went 19-1 in the regular season a year ago and won one playoff game before meeting St. Elizabeth again. Victory thinks with a tougher schedule this season that could feature more games like Wednesday’s the Riders will be better prepared for the postseason.

“Last year we had too many wins that were too easy,” Victory. “This year, a few losses more and getting tested like this, I think we’ll be better.”

Sophomore Ber’ Nyah Ward-Mayo paced the Vikings with a game-high 41 points. She went on a 7-0 run by herself in the fourth quarter when Caesar Rodney had cut St. Elizabeth’s lead to four-points.

“I wish I could have gotten her for Christmas.” Victory joked. “She is slippery as can be.”

Caesar Rodney held the earlier advantage on Wednesday until the Vikings went on an 11-2 run in the first quarter.

St. Elizabeth led by double digits for most of the third quarter until freshman Jada McCullough drained a three to bring the deficit to nine points with 2:48 left in the third. Kylie Koregay-Lucas had a putback basket in the closing seconds of the third to make it a 50-44 game.

Lillian Ayers scored some clutch buckets for CR before Alexis Reid netted a pair of free throws followed by Koregay-Lucas knocking down two of her own to bring CR within 57-54 with 2:30 left.

“We started getting substantial stops and got good shot selection on the other end,” Victory said. “That’s how we closed. We just didn’t do the right things long enough. We could obtain it but we couldn’t sustain it. That was the difference.”

But St. Elizabeth hit 6-of-7 free throws in the final two minutes and the Riders missed a three-point attempt with 40 seconds left which would have made it a one-point game.

Koregay-Lucas led the Riders with 20 points while Reid finished with 16.

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