It has been more than just a drought for the Caravel boys basketball team.
The Buccaneers have been walking through the desert for the last six years.
But Caravel will finally get a drink of that postseason water at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the 21st-seeded Bucs travel to 12th-seeded Appoquinimink for a first-round game in the DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament.
Caravel won its only boys basketball state championship in 2008, edging Newark 53-50 in the title game. The Buccaneers reached the playoffs again the following year, then almost disappeared.
Over the next six seasons, Caravel went a combined 18-99. Mark Tobin took over as coach last season, when the Bucs were 3-17.
“They were so used to losing, they accepted it,” Tobin said Monday. “We really had to start changing their attitude. If you put the work in, the results will come. We were in almost every game last year, but we were losing. We just didn’t have the overall talent and knowledge of the game to win.”
But Caravel started a summer league team and offseason workouts, two things all of the top programs have in common. The improvement was immediate, as the Bucs are 12-8 this season.
“We had a nice transfer come in, and the kids bought into our new approach to the program,” Tobin said. “Some kids that didn’t play basketball before came out because they saw some good, positive energy was involved.”
The key has been O’koye Parker, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who has gone from playing junior varsity at Howard last season to averaging 22 points per game at Caravel.
“He was a great surprise,” Tobin said. “He came in and led the team in scoring, a big emotional leader for us.”
The Bucs also got a boost from Mandela Montgomery, a star running back-defensive back who added some muscle.
“He’s like 5-8, and he plays down in the post,” Tobin said. “He averaged close to six rebounds a game. … He’s our heart and soul. He really helps our attitude and intensity.”
Senior guard Colton Esper has been with the team for four years. Tobin said senior forward Kyle Maher has “a ton of heart,” and sophomore guard Billy McKenzie has provided outside shooting after transferring from Fairwinds Baptist. Brothers Brandon and Matt Sengphachanh – two of the state’s top soccer players – have also added depth as the Bucs play at least nine players most nights.
“That’s what our team is built off of, different sports,” Tobin said. “A few soccer players, two football players. O’koye Parker is our main basketball player, but our team is built with athletes. The good part is, they mesh really well together.”
Saturday’s 14 weight-class titles at the DIAA Individual Wrestling Championships were split among nine schools, led by Smyrna with three. Cape Henlopen, Caesar Rodney and Sussex Central each won two, as Henlopen Conference schools took 10 titles overall.
CR boosted its all-time total to 95 individual champions, the most by any school. St. Mark’s, which didn’t add any titles this season, is next with 91. Then comes William Penn (70), Sussex Central/Georgetown (47), Smyrna (46) and Salesianum (39).
Sanford sophomore Andrew Brooks reached 100 career wins when he kicked off the finals with a 4-0 decision over Dover’s Nick Lee at 138 pounds. Brooks is just the second Warriors wrestler to win a state title, joining Brendan Lamey, who won at 145 last year but finished third at 152 on Saturday.
Cape Henlopen finished fourth in the DIAA Girls Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday – with just four girls doing all of the Vikings’ scoring.
The quartet of Sarah Rambo, Sarah Hyde, Amelia Nigh-Johnson and Molly Weeks won the 200 freestyle relay and finished second in the 200 medley relay.
Individually, Hyde finished second in the 100 breaststroke and sixth in the 50 freestyle. Weeks took fourth in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 butterfly. Rambo earned fifth in the 100 freestyle and eighth in the 100 backstroke, and Nigh-Johnson finished 10th in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
The best news: All four are juniors. They will be back next year.
Rounding it up
— There will be two neutral-site games in the opening rounds of the DIAA basketball tournament. No. 15 seed Padua (9-11) will meet No. 18 Conrad (14-6) in a girls game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brandywine. No. 17 Woodbridge (16-4) and No. 16 St. Andrew’s (10-10) will tangle in a boys opener at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Polytech.
— Caravel/Hodgson defeated Monsignor Bonner (Pa.) 10-5 to win the Commonwealth Division of the Delaware Scholastic Hockey Association on Friday. Sebastian Thomas had six goals and an assist, and Nicholas Demarco and Michael Anderson each had a goal and three assists for Caravel/Hodgson.
— The McKean boys basketball team made a big jump this season, improving from 3-17 last year to 10-8. It was the Highlanders’ first winning season since they went 20-4 and reached the state quarterfinals in 2007-08.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ