By Michael Rich
Delaware Christian didn’t need cupcakes as incentive this time around; the promise of getting a tourney-opening victory for seniors Liz Sullivan, Erin McCullough and Elizabeth Blackburn was incentive enough as the Eagles cruised past Patriot Preparatory Academy 64-42 in the second round of the Division IV district girls basketball tournament Thursday night in Delaware.
The first time around — a 45-40 victory at Patriot Prep Dec. 19 — marked the 200th career win for Eagles coach Jackie Boggs, hence the cupcakes.
“It was a lot better than the first time we played them,” she said. “We were in control the whole time. Last time, we didn’t get control until about four minutes left. I felt a lot better about that (Thursday).”
McCullough scored eight of her game-high 20 points during a 20-5 run in the final 5:50 of the second quarter — a spree which broke a 12-12 tie and sent sixth-seeded Delaware Christian (15-8) to a 32-17 lead at the break.
“Erin pulled together the second quarter,” Elizabeth Blackburn said. “She had a lot of steals and put in those buckets.”
“We really meshed on the court and it’s one of the key things that helped us to do so well,” McCullough said.
Boggs credited a new press — installed yesterday — as a key to the run. McCullough had seven steals to lead the team.
“We talked about it and said, ‘let’s just try this,’ because we usually do a full man press,” Boggs said. “I put Elizabeth back there (deep) and then Erin on the ball is intimidating. I’ve never had her up there — I never wanted to get her in foul trouble.”
Elizabeth Blackburn scored five points and assisted on the other basket during a 7-0 spurt early in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 20 with 5:17 to go.
“Elizabeth has really stepped up (this season),” Boggs said.
Briana Blackburn scored the final three baskets of the quarter to maintain a 51-31 DCS lead through three. She finished with eight points.
“I’m really happy with Briana — she works really hard in practice,” Boggs said. “(Thursday night) she really showed up.”
Olivia House scored 13 of her 15 in the second half to pace the DCS offense.
“She’s really been focusing on defense — we put her on the fastest kid,” Boggs said. “(Thursday night) she really did shoot well. She did have a great second half … it was fun to watch her.”
DCS never trailed after opening 7-0 on its way to a 10-6 lead at the end of one. McCullough, who finished with six rebounds overall, scored four points during the opening frame.
“Our steal-to-turnover ratio was horrible in the first quarter, but then we calmed down,” Boggs said.
Raijai Franklin led Patriot Prep (9-13) with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.
Liz Sullivan led DCS with 11 rebounds.
DCS had assists on 18 of 24 field goals led by Maddie Morgan with four. Sullivan, McCullough and Anna Fuller dished out three apiece.
McCullough is 55 points short 1,000 in her DCS career. She is committed to play volleyball at Cedarville University next season.
“She plays with such heart,” Boggs said. “She has just put our sports at a new level.”
Next up, DCS plays the winner of 10th-seeded Northside Christian and fourth-seeded Danville Thursday night at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.