It had been more than a month since the Indian River High School boys’ basketball team had managed a win.
While winter break was a factor, the Indians were still riding a three-game losing streak, after starting the season 4-0, when they hosted then-5-2 Laurel on Friday, Jan. 13.
But Friday the 13th superstitions aside, that’s a streak that they’d finally snap in front of a packed house at the Indian River High School gymnasium, taking down the Bulldogs 52-40, to improve to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the Henlopen South.
“We had to pull this one out,” said sophomore guard Jamier Felton after the game. “This game was important to us after losing the last three.”
“These are tough South battles, you’ve gotta come out on top in games like these,” added head coach B.J. Joseph. “I think they’re starting to come together as a team.”
The game’s tone was set early, when sophomore forward Antonio Jones managed a steal on the far end and got the ball down to freshman guard Kevin “K.J.” Custis for an easy bucket.
Custis would go on to take his man and lay it in on the next possession, later knocking down a shot from beyond the arch to put the Indians up 8-0.
Freshman guard OrRyin Morris also made an early impact, with Custis finding him down low to put IR up 11-5 with just over a minute to go in the first quarter.
Like Jones and Felton last season, Custis and Morris already find themselves in major roles for a young IR squad after coming up from the Selbyville Middle School program.
“We told them that, here, everybody is on the same level,” said Felton of his advice for the freshman. “We know we’ve got to push each other at practice and keep making each other better.”
The Indians would take a 13-8 lead into the second quarter when senior guard Colby Chandler drove through the paint for a layup just before the buzzer, but the Bulldogs would go on to manage a comeback, tying the game at 18-18 until IR senior guard Thomas DiBuo knocked down a pair of foul shots to make it 20-18 headed into the break.
“They were boxing out pretty well,” Jones said of Laurel closing the gap before halftime. “We didn’t handle that very well at the beginning of the game.”
The Indians would find their mojo at the start quarter No. 3 when Jones hit sophomore center Kashid Waples for a quick strike after the opening inbound.
That’s when things got good.
With the score tied at 22-22, Jones gave the Indians a 24-22 advantage with an offensive rebound and put-back, only to see the Bulldogs go up 26-24 after back-to-back steals by Laurel junior Brandon Faulk.
Then, IR junior guard Patrick Mumford got into the mix to tie it back up at 26-26, going on to find Felton down low to make it 30-26 headed into the fourth.
The back-and-forth battle would end there, with the Tribe holding a steady lead on their way to the 52-40 victory.
“We just kept working. We played hard,” said Jones after the game. “It was a good win, but we still have work to do in practice.”
After snapping their losing streak, the Indians were looking to continue on a winning one with Woodbridge (7-0) coming into town on Tuesday, Jan. 17. They were scheduled to hit the road on Tuesday, Jan. 24, to take on Seaford at 7:15 p.m., before hosting Delmar on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 5:15 p.m.