The Indian River girls barrel down the court at home in their final game of the season vs. Seaford Friday, Feb. 13 in Dagsboro. Indian River won 51-32.
Fighting back tears, senior Faythe Wise walked to center court to embrace her coaches, family and the Indian River administration during the senior night ceremony at half time.
“I played basketball throughout high school and I’m finally a senior, it just came so fast,” Wise said. “I don’t think I’ll play basketball in college so this is a big deal for me.”
Holding onto a 24-14 lead at the break, the only thing that could make senior night sweeter was a win.
The Indian River High School girls basketball team took on Seaford at home to wrap up their impressive season. Led by freshman Tashara Houston and senior Taylor Billinger, who had 19 and 17 points, respectively, the Indians pulled away to a 51-32 win, earning their ninth and final win of the season.
Struggling from the field in the first half, the Indians were able to find a way to score by attacking the paint. Driving the lane, offensive rebounds and earning trips to the free throw line led the Indians to a 24-14 halftime lead.
After getting into foul trouble early in the first half, coach Matt Mayette encouraged his team to continue playing their physical game.
“We wanted to keep playing aggressive. We felt like we had a good advantage getting out there and guarding them and making them make quick decisions,” Mayette said. “We had enough girls that we felt comfortable that our bench would play well and they did and they stepped up.”
The Indians had a quick run to pull away for awhile, led by senior Taylor Billinger who drilled a three on a wide open jumper to kickstart the scoring in the first minute after the break.
As the quarter continued, the Indians began to struggle from the field and seemed reluctant to earn the points in the paint that had been working in the first half.
After a cold third quarter, the Indians pulled away in the fourth, heating up from the field.
This season saw a much improved Indians team, surpassing their win total from last year. Despite not making the playoffs due to injuries to some key players, the Indians were very positive about the season.
“We’re ecstatic,” Mayette said. “Going from six wins last year to nine wins this year, it’s great. The senior class has worked really hard to get themselves to that point.”
Improvements were seen not just in the standings, but also in the locker room.
“I think we did pretty good, better than last year,” Wise said. “As a team we all came together, we worked together and got along a lot better than last year.”
And despite not qualifying for the state tournament, it’s hard to be disappointed with such an improvement especially considering injuries to key players.
“(The girls) were hoping for 10, 11 wins and put themselves in a position to qualify for the state tournament,” Mayette said, “but some injuries kind of took it away.”
The outlook for next year’s season is very positive, despite Indian River losing six seniors.
“Our expectations are high — we’re gonna have to find somebody who can score the basketball,” Mayette said. “Besides the two or three seniors that were out there today, the rest are all freshmen and sophomores who have a full varsity season under their belt. We’re really confident in their development this year, and what they’re going to bring us next year.”
”(The underclassmen) are going to continue to improve throughout the whole year,” Billinger said. “They’re going to continue to work hard and push forward.”