WILMINGTON –The women’s basketball game between St. Elizabeth and Wilmington Charter on Feb. 1 was more than Diamond State Athletic Conference control. It was a battle between one of Delaware’s blue bloods and a program that had been trying to break through for a few years now.
Charter entered the day with a 10-0 record, but St. Elizabeth presented his toughest challenge yet. The Vikings were 10-2.
And the Force nearly succeeded. Charter hung with the defending state champions until the fourth quarter before the Vikings retired at the free throw line. St. Elizabeth left Charter with a hard-earned 64-55 victory.
The Force scored six straight games in the first quarter to take a 9-6 lead as the Vikings battled the turnover bug. Danielle Kanse, Catie Cole and Emma Brown all converted errors into runs during this run before St. Elizabeth called a timeout with 3:11 remaining.
The Vikings responded. Farrah White’s three-point shot put the visitors ahead, 11-9, while an 11-0 run to finish first gave St. Elizabeth a 17-9 advantage.
St. Elizabeth added the first four of the second quarter, extending the lead to 12, before a Cole free throw stopped the run. It kicked off a 9-0 run for Charter, with the first six points coming on lay-ups as the Force put players behind the Vikings defense. Brown hit a follow-up shot to bring Charter within three at 21-18.
Ericka Huggins, who had a big day for the Vikings, stopped Charter’s run with a three. She added a pair of twos, and Riley Eckhardt added another, to help St. Elizabeth hold on to an eight-point halftime lead.
The Vikings gave up two easy buckets after intermission, but Huggins struck again. She hit a two, followed by a three, to cut St. Elizabeth’s lead to seven at 35-28. Sydney Hilliard and Rory Ciszkowsi both added short field goals as the Vikings lead returned to double digits at 11, and the Force called a timeout.
Brown scored twice from close range and Kanse intercepted a pass and took it into the hole, cutting the Force deficit to five. Ciszkowski managed to recover two points before the end of the quarter.
Kanse, who did most of his damage inside, went over the arc to open the fourth, and his triple cut the Vikings’ lead to 41-37. Shortly after, Brown hit a turnover jumper after another turnover, and Ava Lutrzykowski scored on a layup after a steal to tie the game at 45, sending home fans into a frenzy. The Vikings called a timeout with 5:25 to go.
St. Elizabeth briefly regained the lead on a free throw, but Brown backed off a defender and scored to put Charter in the lead. Huggins, however, responded again and Ciszkowski drained a triple as the Vikings came back in the lead, 51-47.
The Force struck back again. They scored the next four points, once again tying on two free throws from Cole. Hilliard hit a mid-range jumper and Farrah White made both ends one-on-one, regaining the lead to four points (55-51) with a minute to go.
St. Elizabeth made nine free throws on 12 attempts in the final 40 seconds to secure the game.
Huggins had 22 points and a slew of rebounds to lead St. Elizabeth. She was joined in double digits by Ciszkowski (16) and Hilliard (14). The Vikings (11-2) are at Conrad on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.
Kanse led all scorers with 21. Brown worked his way up to 18, and Cole had 10. La Force (10-1) is looking to get back into the win column at home Thursday against Archmere. Tipping is at 3:30 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.