On a night when Ursuline Academy presented rings to its 2015 girls state basketball champions, the current version of the Raiders served notice that they will be part of the conversation again come March. Ursuline, boosted by its suffocating pressure defense and a deep roster, stormed out to a big lead early and was never threatened in a 59-39 win over rival Padua on Thursday night in Catholic Conference action.
Junior Kryshell Gordy started the scoring for the Raiders. Her layup was followed by two field goals off steals. Senior Kailyn Kampert converted the first one into two points, then Kampert fed sophomore Maggie Connolly, who had six points in the first quarter on her way to a team-leading 11. The Pandas’ first five possessions ended in turnovers.
Ursuline coach John Noonan turned his team’s advantage into an opportunity to substitute liberally. Freshman Yanni Hendley turned heads with five points in the first quarter, after which the Raiders led, 19-7. She displayed inside and outside moves and scored 10 points overall.
Padua (1-3) found its footing after the initial miscues. Meg Mallon did the damage in the first half for the Pandas, scoring nine points before intermission. Two of those points came on a nice steal by and feed from senior Mackenzie Scully, drawing Padua to within nine. At the half, the Pandas trailed, 30-15.
With their starters back on the court as the second half began, Ursuline – wearing retro red away uniforms – put the game away. Connolly and seniors Sabriya Harris and Alyssa Irons nailed a three-point shot each, and Padua struggled with its shooting and turnovers.
The Pandas faced their biggest deficit, 24 points, heading into the fourth, but they did not quit. Senior Gabby Julian opened the quarter with back-to-back threes, and after a free throw for the Raiders, Julian was back at it, hitting two more from distance. Her last triple cut the Ursuline lead to 47-34. Of Ursuline’s final 13 points, nine were scored by freshmen or sophomores.
Connolly and Hendley were the double-figure scorers for Ursuline, which got points from 13 players. The Raiders, now 3-1 after a third straight win, are off until Dec. 27, when they meet Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.) in the Diamond State Classic at the St. E Center at 7:30 p.m.
For Padua, Julian finished with a game-high 15, while Mallon continued her early season scoring success with 12. The Pandas travel to the Hun School (N.J.) for a noon tip this Saturday.