It took Padua more than three and a half quarters to finally gain the lead against Conrad, and it would take a lot longer than regulation to keep it. The extra work was worth it, however, as the Pandas evened their record with a 58-51 triple-overtime win over Conrad on Friday afternoon in Wilmington.
For three quarters, it looked like the young Redskins – who feature just one senior, along with three freshmen and three eighth-graders – would pull off the road victory. They controlled the rebounds all day, turning the second and third chances into putback points and driving through and around the Pandas. Behind the scoring of freshman Jordan Rook and eighth-grader Julie Kulesza, they led by as much as 34-23 late in the third quarter after a seven-point run. That is when the Pandas began the turnaround.
Padua cut six points off that lead before the third ended. Four of those were the result of the Pandas’ press, with Megan Mallon hitting both resulting buckets. Alyssa Faville, another eighth-grader, put the Redskins ahead, 36-30, early in the fourth, and after Padua pulled to within two at 36-34, Kulesza drained a free throw to extend the advantage to three with 5:14 to go.
Mallon made it a one-point game with an acrobatic underhanded scoop layup, and the Pandas finally took the lead when Bella Julian nailed a three-pointer with 3:54 to go. A Camryn Scully field goal gave Padua a four-point lead at 41-37. The lead was 41-38 as the final seconds ticked off, but Kulesza hit a long three-point shot to tie it with four ticks remaining to send it to the first overtime.
Early in the first extra session, Anastasia Mavridis found Mallon underneath as Padua retook the lead. Rook scored her first points since the first quarter on a three-pointer with 40.7 seconds left, and Conrad had a one-point advantage. Mallon tied it with a free throw. Conrad had two chances to go ahead as the first OT neared its end, but the Redskins missed two free throws and a follow-up shot after the second miss.
Padua again grabbed an early lead in the second overtime, with Mallon doing the dishing, this time to Mackenzie Scully. After a Conrad miss, Mackenzie Scully fed her younger sister Camryn for a four-point advantage. But the Pandas went cold after that, and the Redskins erased the deficit in the last 24 seconds of the OT. This time, Kulesza extended the game with two clutch free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Mallon and Mackenzie Scully opened the third extra session with back-to-back layups, and this time the Redskins would not be able to mount a comeback. The Pandas put it away by hitting four of six free throws in the third OT, including three of four by Gabby Julian.
Pandas coach Emily Grugan said the team came out flat and inconsistent. When they played well on offense, there were defensive lapses and vice versa. She urged them to keep trying.
“I’m always proud of them, but I was proud of them today for not giving up,” Grugan said. “They could have. They’re tired, there’s a big dance tonight at school, so I was glad that we got the win.”
“It was an off day, but I’m happy with the win. (Conrad) has a good team, and it was a good game. This was our first overtime game, let alone triple overtime. We needed a win like this. I’m always glad we had this adversity.”
The win was Padua’s fourth straight; the Pandas improved to 6-6. Mallon continued with her outstanding season with 29 points, while Mackenzie Scully had 13. The Pandas remain at home for their next game, which is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Ursuline.
For Conrad, Kulesza again was a scoring machine, finishing with 23. Rook also reached double figures at 14. The Redskins (7-4) host Middletown on Tuesday at 5 p.m.