In front of a packed house last Thursday, Feb. 9, the Indian River High School basketball team earned a 64-57 win over district rival Sussex Central, in the process bettering their chances of returning to the DIAA state tournament for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.
“They’re starting to buy into the process. They’re buying into it, and it’s working,” said IR head coach B.J. Joseph, who took over the squad last season. “We just have to keep getting wins, taking one game at a time.”
The Indians started off hot in that game when senior forward Isaiah “Izzy” Bratton won the tip-off and sent a dart down to sophomore forward Jamier Felton, who finished the chance and put his squad up 2-0 in the game’s opening seconds.
“Izzy went up, got the ball, got it to me. Boom — easy bucket,” said Felton. “We didn’t want to come out slow. We wanted to come out with a nice steady tempo and keep on going.”
“The atmosphere was real tonight. We had to protect our house,” said Bratton of the quick strike and packed house. “We like to practice that. It’s there most of the time.”
While the Indians may have set the tempo early, the Golden Knights tried to battle back with a quick tempo of their own, when junior forward Brian Evans knocked down a three-pointer to give Central a 3-2 lead.
Bratton put the Indians up 4-3 off an assist from junior guard Patrick Mumford right after that, with the lead going back and forth until Sussex Central took a 16-13 lead into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, it was senior guard Thomas DiBuo who knocked down a three-pointer and tied the game for the Indians at 18-18, doing it again to put IR up 26-21 just minutes later. DiBuo would finish the night with 14 points.
After regaining the lead, it’d be all Indians after that, as they went on to the 64-57 win.
Felton led the scoring, with 21 points and 10 rebounds, with Bratton also pulling off the double-double, with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Just a day before the win, Bratton learned that he’d be heading to the Blue-Gold All-Star game in March.
“I was excited to get a chance to play in it,” Bratton said of when he got the news.
“We’re proud of Iz,” added Felton. “He works hard in practice — we all work hard — but I gotta give it to him: He works hard.”
The Indians got some other good news last week, when their win on Friday, Feb. 3, against Sussex Academy was the 200th of Joseph’s career.
After a loss against Lake Forest on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Indians were 11-7 overall and 7-5 in the Henlopen South, looking well-positioned for a bid to the DIAA state tournament with two games left to go this season.
Up next, they’ll head to Laurel on Friday, Feb. 17, at 5:15 p.m., before capping the season at St. Thomas More on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m.
The DIAA state tournament is set to get under way on Wednesday, March 1.
“We’re a family, the whole team,” said Bratton of the season’s success so far. “We just have to keep going, keep pushing — no holding back.”