It was what Indian River High School head boys’ basketball coach B.J. Joseph referred to as “a trap game.”
The last day of winter exams. No school the next day. Against a 1-12 team.
But, despite seeing the game against Delmar go to overtime on Thursday, Jan. 26, the Indians still pulled out a 67-64 division win, with Joseph getting his second win of the season over a coach who is one of his former players — Delmar head coach Shawn Phillips.
“I knew they would play hard. When you’re 1-12, you don’t have anything to lose,” said Joseph after the 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 Indians got off to a slow start after the opening draw, falling behind 6-2 before sophomore center Kashid Waples finished an offensive rebound and senior guard Colby Chandler managed a steal shortly thereafter and got it down to senior forward Isaiah “Izzy” Bratton on a fast break to tie things up.
Falling behind and tying it up would become a first-quarter trend after that, as the Wildcats took a 20-16 lead into the second quarter, and five points from IR sophomore guard Jamier Felton just before the half tied the game at 30-30 headed into the break.
Felton led with 21 points on the night, with the Indians also seeing production from junior guard Patrick Mumford and freshman point guard KJ Custis, who each tallied 13 points in the matchup.
After trading leads throughout the third quarter and headed into the game’s final 15 minutes tied 41-41, a scoring rampage led by Delmar junior center Brooks Parker and junior guard William Schuyler gave the Wildcats a 51-41 advantage before Bratton was finally able to answer with an offensive rebound and put-back to get the Indians going on their way to a comeback.
“[Parker] is definitely a good rebounder, and [Schuyler], he can score,” Bratton said of the Delmar run. “We started driving, trying to get them into foul trouble, just like they got me.”
“We called a timeout, and coach said to just slow the ball down,” Custis added of how the Indians got back on track.
After Custis drew a foul to cut the lead to 51-44, he’d add a lay-up to make it 51-46 after Felton managed a steal and found the freshman standout on a fast break.
Down 54-52 with just over a minute to go, Custis would tie it after going end-to-end and finishing the drive.
Freshman guard OrRyin Morris would give the Indians a 57-55 advantage with just 11 seconds to go, but a the Wildcats would answer on a last-second buzzer-beater from guard Jeremiah Lumpkin-Beale to send the game to overtime.
To get the win, however, the Indians would have to make up for the loss of Bratton, who both fouled out and suffered a leg cramp while diving for a loose ball at the end of regulation.
“He’s a key player right there, so some of us had to step up,” said junior guard Patrick Mumford, who put IR up 59-57 to start OT.
“After Izzy got hurt, we just had to play for him,” added Custis.
Having jumped out to the quick lead, the Indians spent most of their time in OT at the foul line, on their way to the 67-64 win.
That left them at 7-4 overall and 5-4 in the Henlopen South, just over halfway through the season, as they try to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013-2014.
The Indians were scheduled to host Cape Henlopen on Wednesday, Feb. 1 (after Coastal Point press time), before heading to Sussex Academy on Friday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m.