Ursuline overcomes challenge from Pandas, takes 57-49 hoops win


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Ursuline Academy has had the better of rival Padua Academy on the basketball court in recent years, but the Raiders know they are always in for a battle when they take on neighboring Pandas. Thursday’s game was no different, as Ursuline held off a spirited challenge from Padua, taking a 57-49 win.

All-state junior guard Adriana Hahn led the Raiders with a quiet 18 points. Ursuline also received key contributions from sophomore Alyssa Irons (nine points), along with junior Courtney Wallace and sophomore Kailyn Kampert, who chipped in with eight each.

Padua’s Teresa Highberger (45) and Megan Mallon (3) set up on defense Thursday night against Ursuline. The visiting Raiders won by eight. The Dialog/Mike Lang

Ursuline (3-1) jumped out to a 13-9 lead after the first quarter, with their press giving Padua fits throughout the first eight minutes. The Pandas got hot as the second quarter started, taking a brief lead before they lost their shot. Emma Matthews, who would finish with a game-high 19 points, had six points for Padua with two three-point shots, including a 40-foot buzzer-beater, and junior forward Teresa Highberger also had six. Ursuline maintained the four-point advantage at the half, 27-23.

“Our shots really weren’t going down until the second half. Our offensive plays weren’t working, and we weren’t being crisp with our passes. We weren’t really being efficient on offense. So, we had to communicate more, we had to box out more. We’re short, we had to rebound more,” Hahn said.

Ursuline opened the lead up a bit in the third, but Matthews kept it close with three more treys in the quarter. Again, each team scored 14 in the third, with the Raiders heading into the final quarter holding on to the four-point advantage. Padua, with a distinct height advantage, had several possessions with multiple opportunities, but the Pandas could manage just one field goal from anyone other than Matthews during the third.

Padua (2-2) held close until the final minutes, when Matthews fouled out. Ursuline’s stifling defense, which helps them overcome their lack of height, helped keep the Pandas at bay, and Wallace and Irons helped with key baskets.

Hahn, whose presumptive college coach, Harry Perretta of Villanova, watched the game from courtside, said the Raiders are fortunate to have several players who can score.

“We have the help from other guards who are athletic and quick. I wish we had a little more height for rebounding. Sometimes we have to go in the post and box out and rebound more. But what we have is what we have to use, and what we don’t have, we have to get better at,” she said.

In addition to Matthews, Padua received a double-digit scoring effort from Highberger, who had 11. Rachel Liskiewicz added nine.

Both teams are off until the Diamond State Classic, which takes place Dec. 27-30 at the St. E Center. Ursuline plays Dec. 27 at 5:45 p.m. against Oregon City High School from Oregon, while the Pandas are scheduled to meet Damascus (Md.) High School Dec. 28 at 5:45 p.m.