It could have been a recipe for a letdown for the Sussex Tech boys basketball team.
The Ravens missed three days of practice this past week due to snow, then defeated Indian River at home Friday night. Then they boarded a bus at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and made a 90-mile trip to A.I. du Pont for a 12:15 tipoff, their second game in 19 hours.
But sixth-ranked Sussex Tech battled through the adversity and ran to a season-high point total, building a 20-point halftime lead before holding on for a 90-82 victory over the Tigers.
“We weren’t in the gym for three or four days, so we got kind of fatigued last night,” said the Ravens’ Kevin Larkin, who led the way with 33 points. “To come back here and play again, we were pretty tired. But we had to fight through it.”
Sussex Tech led 21-10 after one quarter, but A.I. du Pont scored nine straight to pull within 23-19 on Anthony Christopher’s three-point play with 4:37 left in the second quarter.
That’s when the Ravens (10-3) turned up the pressure, creating multiple turnovers and ripping off a 25-9 run to lead 48-28 at halftime.
“We started playing our defense, and we played team ball on offense,” Sussex Tech coach Steve Perry said. “Like I told them, you’ve got to look for each other and trust each other and good things will happen. We mixed up our defense and got some good steals.”
The Tigers (4-6) went to a full-court press in the third quarter, and the hectic schedule started to take its toll on the Ravens. A.I. started forcing the turnovers, and Raekwon Wilson’s driving layup pulled the Tigers within 56-45 with 4:42 left in the quarter.
The Ravens took a 68-55 led into the final period, but A.I. kept charging. The Tigers scored eight straight, and Wilson’s scoop shot cut the lead to 78-71 with 3:01 to play. Sussex Tech finally found its second wind, as Larkin broke free for a dunk and added two free throws. Jamont Matthews hit a 12-footer to put it out of reach at 86-72.
“We played a good first half, but we came out in the second half too lax,” Perry said. “[The Tigers] were quick. They gave us a good challenge, which we really needed. That was a good game for us.”
Shi’wuan Sykes finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Sussex Tech. Duane Hopkins scored 12, and Rae’Kwan Deshields and Matthews each added 10.
“It was a long trip, and it was kind of cold in the gym,” Sykes said. “We had to get warmed up and try to stay consistent as a team. We had to find a rhythm.”
Freddie Heard hit five 3-pointers on the way to 22 points for A.I., and Wilson scored 19 of his 21 in the second half. The Ravens continually pounded the ball inside, forcing the Tigers to foul. Sussex Tech hit 27 of 44 free throws.
“I keep telling my kids we’ve got to be aggressive. We’ve got to get teams in foul trouble,” Perry said. “We try to go to the line at least 20 times a game. That’s part of being aggressive.”