The road will only get tougher before it gets easier for the Indian River varsity boys basketball team, following two straight losses, to Milford and Polytech of the Henlopen North. The defeats drop their record to 5-7 overall.
Indian River is set to play Henlopen North Conference leader Cape Henlopen today, and then three top-20 Delaware-ranked teams — Sussex Tech, Sussex Central and Caesar Rodney — to round out the month of January.
“We’re just getting rolled up,” Indians head coach Pat Kelly said. “We just didn’t have enough. We’re moving the ball and we play with energy at times but we have to be able to score and rebound.”
Indian River’s 77-72 loss to Milford on Jan. 12 was marred by 13 missed free-throws on 28 attempts and in a game where the margin of victory is only five points every point is necessary.
“We missed lay-ups and free throws and they still didn’t stop us defensively. We scored 71, but it’s tough to win when you go 15-28 (from the free throw line) and miss 13 free throws to lose by five.”
And then against Polytech, Indian River’s squad just could match up with the Panther’s titanic front-court.
According to Kelly, a majority of Polytech’s points were a result of offensive rebounding and an abundance of three-pointers. Polytech has a couple 6-foot-5-inch-plus power forwards that dominated the offensive glass for a series of baskets, and once the Indians collapsed on them, they kicked it out for open three-pointers.
“They kind of decided the game on the offensive glass,” Kelly said. “And, offensively, we didn’t play well. We’re going have to figure out some things to compensate for this as we go through the meat grinder (during our stretch in the Henlopen North).”
Kelly indicated that inserting junior forward Marlin Blue into the lineup, in the gaping absence of fellow junior Jeremy Purnell, would give them some much-needed size alongside freshman forward Montre Andrews — particularly against schools that have a larger talent pool.
“The Polytechs and Caesar Rodneys have 1,300 to 1,600 kids attending their schools, and they have some big kids,” Kelly said. “But (Marlin) Blue has worked hard, so maybe it’s time to give him a shot.”
Ultimately, Kelly said he hopes that his young squad understands that the teams that they’ll play over the next two weeks have more experience and that this is a learning process for them. Their time to shine as one of the elite teams will come as they continue to develop their skills and gel as a team, he said.
“What these guys have to learn is how to handle ourselves with class,” Kelly said. “Some of these teams are better than us, but what I want is to build something for the future. We have two sophomore guards in (Tyree) Oliver and (Jamar) Manuel, a freshman guard in (Deshawn) Godwin and two freshmen forwards in (Montre) Andrews and (Keion) Sturgis. They have a lot of potential. All they have to do is continue to come out and play hard.”
“I think this team has the same talent if they continue to develop as the teams that led us to five conference championships (during the late ’80s and early ’90 s),” Kelly continued.
Indian River will travel to play Cape Henlopen this evening at 7:15 p.m. and then return to host Sussex Tech on Jan. 23.