The 2006-2007 Indian River varsity basketball has seen its season ebb and flow many times. They won two straight games after dropping their season opener to Smyrna, then lost three straight, only to win three more in a row — including home wins over Delmar and Woodbridge on Jan. 11 and 13, respectively, before coming full circle once again for their second loss to Smyrna this season, in a 67-44 losing effort.
Indian River earned a winning record (5-4) for the first time this season by holding on to beat the Woodbridge Raiders 51-45 on Jan. 13. It capped a three-game winning streak that started with a 79-55 blowout to beat Mardela High School in the Daily Times Mason-Dixon Cup consolation game during the Christmas holiday. But they couldn’t recapture the same intensity that had made them so successful during that span against the Smyrna Eagles on Jan. 9.
Indian River’s meat and potatoes during their three-game win streak had been playing unselfish ball, being active in the passing lanes defensively and rebounding despite having to go with a smaller lineup since the injury a couple of weeks ago to junior center Jeremy Purnell and more recently senior forward Drew Gibbons.
Gibbons injured his ankle in the second half of the Delmar game, which forced head coach Pat Kelly to run with a smaller, quicker primarily four-guard lineup consisting of Miyo Castro, Deshawn Godwin, Tyree Oliver and Jamar Manuel. It left Preston Irving and freshman forward Montre Andrews the only Indians on the court who were at least 6 feet tall.
But despite their lack of height, Indian River was able to rebound with both Delmar and Woodbridge and got the offense running by playing staunch defense.
Indian River was out-rebounded 36-31 against Delmar but then filled the script against Woodbridge and held a 44-43 rebounding advantage, including snagging four more boards in the second half (28-24).
They shot better field goal percentages than their Southern Conference counterparts (48 and 34 percent, compared to 37 and 27 percent, respectively) — primarily because their defense put them in a position to make high percentage shots.
Godwin had six steals in the Delmar win and translated those opportunities into five assists. Oliver had four steals and chipped in with five fourth-quarter steals. Castro added three steals to go along with his team-high 15 points.
They had 11 team steals against Woodbridge and finished their fast-break opportunities with zeal. Castro led all scorers with 19 points. Vashad Whidbee finished with 16 on 7-27 shooting.
Indian River effectively rebounded and got the ball out into transition for both wins over Delmar and Woodbridge, as well as Mardela, but their play fell flat against Smyrna and they never came close to winning their fourth straight.
Smyrna’s dynamic scoring duo of Darnell Cephas and Kevin Johnson tied their combined season-low scoring total with 30 points (15 points apiece) and shot a dismal 39 percent from the floor (29-74) as a team but prevailed because of rebounding.
Smyrna rebounded so effectively that they held nearly a 2:1 advantage at the end of the game (51-26 rebounds respectively) and almost out-rebounded Indian River in the first half alone.
Smyrna snagged 24 offensive rebounds in the first half, which fell short of Indian River’s game total by just two, and the Eagles converted nine offensive rebounds into 18 points, compared to none for the Indians.
In fact, Smyrna had more offensive rebounds in the first quarter (11) than defensive rebounds (8).
Andrews, who was only one game removed from recording a season-high 19 rebounds against Woodbridge (10 offensive) was hampered by a sore Achilles and saw only limited action against Smyrna. He had only two points on 1-4 shooting and recorded four defensive rebounds.
“Not having Montre out there really hurt us,” Kelly said. “Talk about going with a small lineup — we were really small, but Montre wasn’t running the court well, which is usually a strength of his, so I decided to rest him for Friday’s game.”
“He might’ve made the score a little better but I (also) didn’t want to aggravate the injury further,” Kelly said.
The Indians were so destitute for rebounding that diminutive point guard Oliver tied Irving with four second-half rebounds.
And though Smyrna didn’t have a particularly good offensive night, Indian River was never able to get into any type of groove either.
No Indian player made more than two shots in a quarter. In fact, no Indians player took more than two shots per quarter until the third quarter, when Godwin made 2-4 for part of his team-high 8 points.
“We didn’t have a very good night offensively,” Kelly said. “And we didn’t play with enough energy to cut the scoring differential.”
Indian River did get an 8-0 lead to start the third quarter and cut the Eagles lead to 36-22. But that would be as close as Indian River would get to the lead, after falling behind 12-5 in the first quarter.
Indian River’s loss to the Eagles dropped their record to 5-5. The Indians are 0-4 when giving up 60 or more points in a game. They will resume play at home against the Milford Buccaneers on Jan.12, followed by two straight road games at Polytech and Cape Henlopen the following week.