LEWES – Cape Henlopen High lost to Caesar Rodney in a girls basketball game by 23 points last month.
The Vikings’ improvement en route to Friday’s 54-42 upset win over the previously unbeaten Riders didn’t only take place in the 49 days since.
Cape also got better within the 32 minutes that constituted the Henlopen Conference Northern Division rematch in their home gym, even though the Vikings led from start to finish.
To win, Cape had to overcome 27 turnovers that helped No. 3-ranked CR pull within two on Brionna Brooks’ 3-pointer with 5:37 to go. That’s when the Vikings put their lessons to use, knowing the best way to avoid CR’s stifling defensive pressure was to make the extra pass to free open shooters.
“The ball movement,” said Lauren Carra, the second-year Cape coach who knows something about that from her days playing guard for the University of Delaware’s 2012 and 2013 NCAA Tournament teams.
“Moving the basketball, not turning it over, hit the person in the numbers, hitting the person when they’re open . . . That was an issue for us at the beginning of the year and now we’re starting to see things change a little bit. That’s where we’ve grown emotionally, to be able to think on the fly.”
Three straight baskets – by Sydney Pedersen, Mallory Jones and Pedersen again, with a 3-pointer – increased the Cape lead back to nine. Each came off a deft assist, two by Dania Cannon and one by Alexis Watkins.
Cape’s next two baskets, by Cannon and Jones off passes from Pedersen and Watkins, were equally critical while making the score 46-40 with 1:28 left. The Vikings did the rest of their work at the foul line, where their aim was sharp.
Cannon had seven of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter. Pedersen scored seven of her 11 in the final frame. Abigail E’Nama had 15 rebounds.
“The difference tonight was we knew we were the underdog,” Cannon, a freshman point guard, said, “so we said ‘Just go out there and have fun and play your hardest.’ No pressure. We had to trust each other. We talked before the game and said we were going to believe in each other and pass the ball. We just believed in each other and had faith we were going to win.”
The Vikings (8-6 overall, 5-3 conference) had lost two in a row to Lake Forest and Polytech.
“This is what they’re capable of doing every night,” Carra said, “and we just need to get them to see that, when you come to practice and you work hard.”
CR (13-1, 6-1) was playing its first game in nine days. The Riders had romped 67-44 over Cape on Dec. 9 at CR.
Cape ran out to a 12-3 lead and answered every challenge. It was 25-19 at halftime and 35-28 after the third quarter, when CR couldn’t take advantage of a Cape scoreless drought that exceeded five minutes.
Alexis Reed scored 10 points to lead the Riders.
“The nine days off hurt us,” CR coach Bill Victory said. “In all honesty, we needed to lose because our heads had gotten so fat we couldn’t even run down the floor. [Carra] works hard. Those kids paid the price. They did what they needed to do.”
Contact Kevin Tresolini at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @kevintresolini.