Woodbridge tourney run ends with  67-37 quarterfinal loss

– Sierra Smith of Woodbridge manages to pass to a teammate after being blocked by a pair of Caravel defenders. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — It was a season of firsts for the Woodbridge High girls’ basketball program.

First undefeated regular season and first DIAA quarterfinals appearance in school history.

The fourth-seeded Blue Raiders’ historic state tourney run ended Monday night at the hands of a 67-37 loss to fifth-seeded Caravel Academy at Dover High.

“The girls did a heck of a job this season,” said Woodbridge coach Emilio Perry. “It’s bittersweet when you’re at the end, and you’re coming off a regular season like that. I don’t feel like I want to be done coaching right now, so it’s just a matter of what we’re going to do in the offseason.

“We have a good group of young girls, we have a good group of eighth-graders coming up next year, so hopefully next year we can go even further.”

After finishing the regular season 20-0, Woodbridge ends the season with just a pair of losses to Cape Henlopen High in the Henlopen Conference title game Feb. 22 and to the Bucs in the quarterfinals Monday.

“We fell short of two of our four goals that we had — conference championship and state title — the two teams that put us out, Cape and Caravel, I tip my hat to them,” said Perry.

With the win, Caravel will face top-seeded St. Elizabeth in Wednesday night’s semifinals. Tip-off at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark is set for 8 p.m.

Janeria Scott of Woodbride drives past Terea Hunt of Caravel to the basket in the first half. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Caravel has made back-to-back DIAA state finals appearances, falling to Conrad and Ursuline in 2018 and 2017, respectively. As a program the Bucs have reached the finals four times in the last six years, losing in each of those four finals trips.

Sophomore Sierra Smith led the Blue Raiders in scoring with 16 points. Sophomore Cha’Kya Johnson added eight points.

If there were any nerves heading into the program’s first quarterfinals playoff game, they were quickly shrugged off as soon as the game tipped off.

Woodbridge point guard Janeira Scott, who finished the game with four points, grabbed control of the ball off the tip-off and sprinted down the court, drawing a foul under the basket two seconds into the game.

After hitting one of her two attempts at the free throw line, the sophomore guard jump-started a 12-3 Woodbridge run to open the game.

Johnson and Smith combined for nine of those 12 points through the first 6:43 of the game.

Consecutive buckets from the Bucs at the 1:04 and :50 mark of the quarter left the Blue Raiders with a 12-7 lead through the first eight minutes of the game.

With early foul trouble plaguing the Blue Raiders, Caravel’s momentum carried over into the second quarter.

The Bucs put together an 18-0 run over the span of 3:04, taking a 16-12 lead and forcing Perry to burn the team’s second timeout.

“I don’t think they were nervous,” Perry said of his girls. “I think Caravel has a deeper bench and I think that helped them out to a certain extent with our girls getting fatigued and making mental errors.”

Scott finally broke up the team’s scoring drought by knocking down one of two free throw attempts at the 4:51 mark of the quarter.

Smith knocked down a layup and a three-pointer in the half’s last 29 seconds to record Woodbridge’s only two field goals of the quarter.

“Caravel did a great job keeping pressure and rotating girls who played at a high level,” said Perry. “You could tell they were senior-led.”

Woodbridge’s Keilijah Johnson (left) and teammate Chakya Johnson battle Caravel’s Kedra Warren for a rebound Monday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Woodbridge managed to keep things close in the second quarter, trailing just 28-20 at the halftime break, but the Bucs were able to come out early in the second half and score the first seven points of the third quarter.

The Bucs out-scored the Blue Raiders 39-17 in the second half to cruise to the 30-point victory.

Keilijah Johnson scored seven second-half points for the Blue Raiders. Senior Tykeya Nelson rounded out the Woodbridge scoring with two points.

“When you’re up against a team that can rotate eight or nine players and give you the same quality of play, it’s tough. It is,” said Perry.

While the loss will sting for a while as the girls head into the offseason, the good news for Woodbridge is four of the team’s five starters — including a trio of sophomores in Johnson, Smith and Scott — will be returning next season.

Just two members of this year’s team – Nelson and Alexis Roberts — will be lost due to graduation, giving the Blue Raiders a strong core of returners for next season.

“I foresee these girls going further in the future, first and foremost, and I think a lot of that’s going to be put out there this spring and summer,” Perry said. “I’ve really enjoyed coaching them this year, they had a good year that spoke for itself, 20-0, but I still want more for them and I know they want more.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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