Five times in the last 3½ minutes, Wilmington Friends had a shot to tie the game or take the lead against Sanford on Saturday.
But none of those shots would fall, and the second-ranked Warriors held on for a riveting 65-58 boys basketball victory over the fifth-ranked Quakers. An overflow crowd packed the gym at Sanford, and both teams put on a show with dunks, sharp passes and in-your-face defense.
“We had been winning games the last couple of weeks, but not really playing well,” Sanford coach Stan Waterman said. “I thought our intensity was good today. We got our intensity back up, and defensively we did a decent job.”
Point guard Anthony Mosley carried the load for the Warriors (12-3) in the first half, going 5 for 5 from the field and dishing several key assists. Freshman Mikey Dixon (13 points) came off the bench to also hit all five of his shots as Sanford hit 15 of 25 (60 percent) from the field on the way to a 37-29 halftime lead.
“I was just taking what came to me, letting the game come to me and not forcing anything,” Mosley said. “It felt good. I felt like I could make a lot of shots.”
Mosley finished with a game-high 22 points. Forward Todd Hughes took over for the Warriors in the second half, scoring 17 of his 21 points.
“Todd came alive in the second half when we needed it,” Waterman said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are capable on the offensive end. It could be somebody different every quarter.”
Even with all the Sanford heroics, the Quakers gradually cut into the lead behind Marcus Delpeche and Larenz Thurman. The pair had all of Friends’ 16 points in the third to trim the Warriors’ edge to 49-45.
Sean Kirkpatrick’s 3-pointer pulled Friends within 53-52 with 5:18 to play, but the Quakers couldn’t get over the hump. They continually came down the court trailing by one, two or three points but couldn’t get the bucket they desperately needed.
“I thought they were good shots,” Friends coach Brian Fahey said. “I didn’t think we were forcing those shots. Sometimes, they just don’t go down.
“The lesson there for the kids is, don’t put yourself in that position in the first place,” Fahey said. “Sanford really took it to us early, and we got ourselves in a pretty big hole. They’re a hard team to battle back against.”
Mosley finally iced the win with four free throws in the final 36 seconds. Delpeche scored 18 and Thurman added 12 for Friends, which came up just short against the three-time defending state champions for the second time this season. But the state tournament is only a month away.
“I’d love to play them again,” Fahey said. “That would be a sign that we’re both playing well.”