With the Indian River High School boys’ basketball team set to make their first state tournament appearance since 2014, winter sports certainly aren’t over yet.
But headed toward the finish line of one of the most successful seasons for all winter sports squads at IR in recent memory, and with plenty of history-making moments to talk about, it’s time to take a Sportscaster Top10-type look at what made the past few months so special, with our Winter 2017 edition of the “The Tribe Top Five.”
We did one of those list things again, and it goes like this:
(5) IR girls’ hoops gets past Milford
It hadn’t been done since 2012, but that didn’t stop the Indian River High School girls’ basketball team from taking down Henlopen South rival Milford in comeback fashion on Jan. 3.
After trailing 9-6 heading into the break, the Indians instituted their “refuse to lose” mantra in half No. 2, sparking the offense and holding on for a 23-19 victory.
“In the huddle, we asked each other, ‘If today was our last game, what would we give? How would we feel when we walked off the court?’” junior guard Fabrea McCray said of the halftime speech that got the Indians going.
The team would go on to double their 2016 win total under second-year head coach Donna Polk, finishing 10-10, with their best record since 2011.
(4) IR boys’ hoops downs Delmar in double-OT
Over the years, the Indians and the Wildcats have certainly seen their fair share of overtime thrillers (who could forget the triple-overtime game in 2015, when Larry “The Menace” Ennis drained two near-half-court buzzer-beaters to give Delmar the win).
That tradition would continue when IR head coach B.J. Joseph took on one of his former players at Laurel, Delmar head coach Shawn Phillips, and the Indians pulled out the 67-64 in double-overtime on Jan. 26.
“I knew they would play hard. When you’re 1-12, you don’t have anything to lose,” said Joseph of what he referred to as a “trap game.” “We weren’t ready for that game. The silver lining is we did pull out a W, and it was one we had to have.”
The win would prove to be instrumental in earning the Indians the No. 18 seed in the upcoming DIAA state tournament.
(3) IR swimmers earn top finishes, break school records, at states
After getting edged for their best finish at the Henlopen Conference championships by Sussex Tech last month, the Indian River High School swim team made up for it at the DIAA state finals last weekend, breaking several school records in the process.
Freshman phenom Josh McIntire broke Carter Michael’s IR record in the 100 Butterfly and 200 IM, while senior Lindsey Grow made the Top 16 for the fourth straight year, breaking her own school records in the 200 IM and 100 Breaststroke.
“They did everything I could have asked for and more,” said head coach Colin Crandell of his squad’s state finals performance. “As coach all you hope for is that they actualize their goals.”
(2) Marcozzi sets school record for wins, battles Hudson in HAC finals
They had traded off wins all season at tournaments including the “Battle of the Beach” and Delcastle Invitational, but never had a match for IR senior Zeke Marcozzi and Sussex Central senior Luke Hudson held as much clout as it did at the Henlopen Conference championships last weekend.
In a highly anticipated matchup at 182, the final match of the finals, Hudson got the edge on Marcozzi when he went into round two with an advantage.
“It can always go either way with us, but for some reason, whoever’s winning going into the second period — 9 times out of 10, they win the match,” Marcozzi said of the trend.
The HAC title match would be no exception to the rule as Hudson pulled out the win, but Marcozzi still set a new school record for career wins the previous night, eclipsing IR grad Mike Magaha’s previous record of 127 wins and finishing the season as the top name on the banner, with 133.
(1) Rayne wins HAC title as a freshman
Headlining a talented freshman class for the Indian River High School wrestling team this season was Will Rayne, who earned the school the first individual Henlopen Conference title since 2010.
The 106-pounder went into the finals against Caesar Rodney sophomore Jackson Dean in front of a packed house at Sussex Central High School, admittedly a little nervous, but didn’t show it on the mat as he pulled out a convincing decision and the HAC title.
“At first I was kind of nervous, being a freshman and going out there in front of all those people — I didn’t know how far I could go or what I could do,” Rayne said of going into the title match. “But I came out on top, and I’m very proud.”
The conference title earned Rayne the No. 2 seed at last weekend’s state championships, were he finished second overall.
Well, that about wraps up one heck of a winter sports season for the Indians. Here’s to hoping there’s some more Top Tribe moments when the IR boys’ basketball team looks to make some noise in the state tournament this week.