NEWARK — Concord High was a little older, a little bigger and stronger.
But, for three quarters, that didn’t seem to matter to underdog St. Thomas More.
When Sarah Pool hit a driving layup just before the third-quarter buzzer, the Ravens trailed the Raiders by just two points.
Staying with Concord for four quarters, though, was just too much to ask.
The fourth-seeded Raiders gradually pulled away in the final eight minutes, finally putting away No. 5 St. Thomas More, 60-47, in the DIAA girls’ basketball quarterfinals at the Carpenter Center on Saturday evening.
Making the school’s first appearance in the quarterfinals, the Ravens finish the season at 17-3.
Blue Hen Conference champion Concord (22-1) moves on to Wednesday’s semifinals where it will face top-seeded Ursuline (17-5) at 8 p.m. in the Carpenter Center. Ursuline is the only team to beat Concord this year.
With a roster made up largely of freshmen and sophomores, St. Thomas More coach Crystal Gordon thought the Raiders’ edge in experience made the difference. The Ravens also had several players in foul trouble, with three starters eventually fouling out.
“Experience really got the best of us in a lot of situations,” said Gordon. “Also foul trouble. When you don’t have enough depth on your bench, eventually it becomes challenging.”
“We can hang with anyone,” said Kourtnie Orth, the only St. Thomas More senior who played in the game. “Our team is strong. This was a great experience.”
St. Thomas More got off to a rough start, missing its first six shots and falling behind 10-2 in the first five minutes.
But the Ravens quickly got their feet under them. They actually took a 12-10 lead before the quarter ended on a putback by freshman Jessica Simmons.
After falling behind by five in the second quarter, St. Thomas More came back again, tying the game at 27-27 when Aniah Patterson buried a jumper at the halftime buzzer.
Concord led 42-40 before outscoring the Ravens, 18-7, in the fourth quarter. In all, the contest featured eight lead changes and five ties.
After St. Thomas More closed within 52-47 on a three-pointer by freshman Sasha Marvel with 3:49 remaining, the Raiders netted the game’s final eight points.
“I knew if we kept it close we’d be OK in the fourth quarter,” said Gordon. “But we weren’t able to get enough buckets to keep matching what they were doing. And they finished their free throws.”
Patterson had 12 points at halftime but finished with only 14 after picking up her fourth foul in the third quarter.
Sophomore guard DahNaija Barnes also helped keep the Ravens close, finishing with 11 points and several assists.
Junior Aahliyah Selby led Concord with a game-high 17 points.
With so many young players, Gordon is excited about the opportunity in front of the Ravens right now. She’d like to think they’ll be able to pick up where they left off last year.
“We started at the bottom and we’re here now,” said Gordon, whose team went just 12-28 over the last two seasons. “I love it. I feel like this is just fuel for us to get even better than what we are now. This will help us with the climb.
“We’ve been here, we’ve seen it and we know the level we need to be at in the postseason. We have nowhere else to go but up.
“I’m just really proud,” she added. “Although they’re down, I feel like we did what we needed to do to get us here. We just need a little bit more.”
But Orth said she can’t imagine it getting much better than this.
“It was probably the best senior year that anyone could have ever asked for,” said Orth, who scored four points. “We made school history and we’re going to just keep making school history. Now it’s up to them to pick it up. I have high hopes for them next year.
“That was probably the most awesome experience ever,” she said about Saturday’s game. “I’ve been to the Bob, I’ve seen UD games. But being on the court with those lights and everybody around, it was probably the best feeling ever. I just wanted to put my arms out and act like Superman — like ‘Ah, I’m here.’ It was awesome.”