Inexperience plagued the Cape Henlopen boys basketball team this winter. After years of recent success, the Vikings hung on to the possibility of finishing the season with a .500 mark.
But they would need to defeat playoff hopeful Tech team.
The young Vikings learned an important lesson Friday — you never know what’s going to happen with these two teams meet.
With all odds against them, the Vikings upset the home team 79-75 in Georgetown behind senior Ryan Thornburg’s 28 points.
“It’s a good win, it’s not an upset — there’s never an upset with this game,” Cape Henlopen head coach Stephen Re said. “You can throw all the other crap out the window when we get together — the kids want to win.”
Cape started the game off with an early Thornburg 3-pointer against the Ravens whose starting five had a change up with seniors Shi’wuan Sykes and Aubre Allen in shooting shirts until late in the first. Re openly admits the lack of athleticism that has highlighted the Vikings in past years, relying on early hot shooting to help get the team in a groove.
By the end of the period Cape held an 18-10 lead and already was placing Ravens in foul trouble.
“We came out strong and that’s the key for us,” Re said. “We can play even with teams. If you look at our wins, all of our wins are close and when we get to the place because we’re not super athletic so we have to execute often and early.”
Tech would exchange baskets with Cape in the second quarter as both teams began to force shots to keep pace with one another. Despite the shot frenzy, neither team was connecting on a consistent basis from the field.
“We had to get back in the game but we’re not going to win the game by shooting these long shots,” Sussex Tech head coach Steve Perry said. “Until they realize that (we won’t win).”
With errant shots on both ends Cape held onto a strong 10-point lead into the half.
“You can’t be ten-down at halftime to a team that’s under .500,” Perry said.
Out of the locker room Tech began to find the right rhythm, beginning to match and outshoot the Vikings — putting up 27 in the quarter to Cape’s 14. Leading the way for the Ravens was Sykes with 10 including two from beyond the arc.
After being outscored in the paint 16-8 in the first Tech also began to hit the boards harder for put-backs.
“We came out of the zone after they hit a couple 3’s but they just made basketball plays,” Re said. “We got out rebounded all night and we gave up way too many offensive rebounds. And they made crazy shots, they were throwing up some stuff from deep and they were going in and we just kept fighting.”
The Vikings would face a gut-check moment as they lost their lead for the first time late in the third on a William Ball and-one attempt at the line. Cold shooting hurt solid movement by Cape while Tech was putting up shots that were dropping with ease.
“They were getting shots off of very little movement and ours were coming off of multiple movements,” Re said. “It’s a grind when you play that way — especially when you have to play that way to get shots and then you go down and guys can just make plays on you.”
Being aggressive defenders from tip off would come back to haunt Tech in the fourth with the narrow lead. Drawing a foul nearly every time he drove into the lane, Cape guard Drew Mulcahy was able to tie the game at 60-all from the charity stripe.
Seeing it as his time, Thornburg would begin going on a tear with a 3 and an important lay up to put Cape up in the winding moments. Energy radiated from the senior and washed onto his teammates.
“He’s capable of that every night, he’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached,” Re said. “It’s internal for him, when he’s confident in himself he comes off of screens well, we get him open, he gets himself open, his teammates look for him — it’s never forced. When he’s knocking them down it’s big for us.”
After turning it around in the third the Ravens came back down to earth, unable to sink a shot — many of which were questionable and obviously forced.
“We gotta be aggressive attacking the basket like they did,” Perry said. “That’s how you win ball games — not shooting long jump shots.”
Between Tech misses and forced fouls to send the Vikings to the line, Cape held out to take the win in full team fashion with four players reaching double-digits. In a rebuilding and learning year, the late season win gives inexperienced Cape a vital experience in Re’s eyes — it’s all about the team.
“You just keep grinding to work together,” Re said. “Five beats one every time.”