After losing three of their last four to Southern Conference contenders — Seaford, Smyrna and Woodbridge — Delmar finally evened their record at 3-3 in a 62-60 win over Mardela High School (3-4) in the first round of the Daily Times Mason-Dixon Cup and are now set to play James M. Bennett (4-3) in the championship round on Dec. 30.
Despite what would appear to be a close game due to the tight final score, Delmar dominated the game with their relentless defensive pressure and defensive traps, and were able to get every player involved in the game offensively.
Delmar senior forward Barry Bratten finished with only 12 points on a poor 5-18 shooting night but his teammates were picked up the slack.
Fernandez Batson, Jhonie Wilson and Kevin Robles chipped in with 10 points apiece in the winning effort.
And Robles scored six of the Wildcats’ last eight points, late in the fourth quarter on 4-4 from the free-throw line, which helped fend off Mardela’s late-game surge.
“That’s the way I want it,” Wildcats head coach Garland Hayward said. “It’s great when Barry can score 30 points, but we’re better off when we can get three or four guys in double figures.”
Mardela had its fair share of scorers, too, led by junior Charles Fontaine’s game-high 22 points. They also had three other players score nine points or more — most in the fourth quarter. But, by that time, Delmar’s defense had taken its toll and Mardela was shooting for a miracle.
“They didn’t handle the press too well,” Hayward said. “They were able to come back in spurts in the second half, but by that time it had worn them down.”
No matter who Hayward put in the game, his team’s intensity level never wavered.
“They played hard,” Mardela head coach Steve Re said. “He’d take three out and put in three more that played with the same effort.”
“And we played with no energy, which has been our story all year,” Re continued. “When we play hard, we look like a good team. But when we don’t, we’re not a very good team.”
“We gave them the ball a lot and made them look really good,” he said. “Not to take anything away from Delmar’s team — they played hard. But we didn’t play to our capability and we ended up making them look a lot faster than they were.”
Delmar’s press forced 16 Mardela turnovers and, even though they couldn’t create turnovers, they were still creating havoc.
“The press doesn’t always have to cause turnovers,” Hayward explained. “Sometimes all it has to do is slow down their offense and not let them get into a rhythm.”
Fontaine made only one field goal on 1-9 fourth-quarter shooting, including consecutive three-point attempts with less than a minute remaining. But it still gave Mardela shooters a chance at cutting the lead every time.
“Fontaine is a player that can run cold and then all of sudden get hot,” Hayward said.
James M. Bennett survived Fontaine’s hot hand in a 55-49 win over Mardela earlier this season but they admitted that they “doubled him every chance they could,” according to assistant head coach Layton Williams.
Delmar will play James M. Bennett in the Daily Times Mason-Dixon Cup Championship immediately after the consolation game between Indian River and Mardela, which is set for noon on Dec. 30.
Admission to the tournament costs $6 for the day.