LOWER MERION — Julia Rigolizzo spent her birthday evening trying to help her team get to the District 1 Class 5A final.
Unfortunately, the Radnor High senior was unable to gift-wrap herself (and the team) a ticket to Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Saturday.
The 10th-seeded Raiders couldn’t solve the precision passing and overall crisp offense of No. 3 Great Valley in Tuesday’s semifinal round at Harriton High.
In the 47-36 loss, Rigolizzo tallied all six of her points in the fourth quarter. She hit a 3-pointer and then a foul shot to cut Radnor’s double-digit deficit to nine points with 2:20 left.
It had seemed that Radnor was down by 10, 11, 12 points the entire way.
The Raiders couldn’t sustain a run.
“It just didn’t work out for us,” Rigolizzo said.
Maybe the birthday cake won’t taste too bad for her. After all, the Raiders (16-10) aren’t out of it yet. They will travel to fifth-seeded Mount St. Joseph later this week. The winner gets third place in District 1 for the PIAA Class 5A tournament and the loser will be the fourth-place team.
Great Valley did a wonderful job of cutting to the basket and scoring easy buckets against the Raiders.
“We watched more film on them than we have probably ever watched on any other team, and that’s because they’re so physical. We never really played a team like that besides maybe Springfield,” Rigolizzo said. ‘We just didn’t do a good enough job getting in front of them and stopping them. It was on us, we knew what they were going to do, but it didn’t work out.
“We have to better with our rebounding, making our shots and playing defense. We have to clean it up before states.”
The Raiders also had trouble getting senior forward Ellie Mueller involved on offense in the first half. Coming off the best game of her high school career, when she posted a triple-double including a personal high 33 points, Mueller didn’t hit her stride until the third quarter. Limited to four points on 1-for-2 shooting from the field in the first half, Mueller had six points in the third quarter and finished with a team-high 13 points.
“It took a little bit,” Mueller said. “It felt like they were everywhere on you. They were around, especially inside, they were clogging the lane the whole time. They were pretty physical.”
The Raiders limped into the locker room after the Patriots finished the first half on a 15-0 run. In the final seconds, Radnor turned the ball over and Great Valley’s Emily DuPont received an outlet pass and scored a three-point play as time expired in the half.
“We are very similar in the way that we play and we thought it was a very good match-up,” Mueller said. “I guess one team had to dominate.”
Radnor struggled mightily from the floor (15-for-49) and committed 17 turnovers. Junior combo guard Bri Williams was held to nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. Radnor’s big forwards — Mueller, Margaret Mooney, Ellie Davis — were held in check, as well.
“We get to come back from this and get ready for states,” Mueller said. “We’ll go back to practice and work on it. And have fun. That’s what we’ll do.”