The Indian River basketball team barely squeezed into the 2006 Delaware State Tournament at the 24th slot ,but their first round performance against Caesar Rodney wasn’t so close — following the first quarter.
The Riders held only a 13-8 lead heading into the second quarter but exploded offensively for an impressive 26 point victory.
The Indians held all-conference guard Steve Mesilus to nine points, compared to the 31 he put up in a 66-62 win over the Indian River Jan. 31, but the Riders had plenty to pick up the slack.
Freshman forward Tyshawn Bell scored well above his 3.9 ppg, and dumped 23 on the Indians — 19 of which came in the second half. Senior swingman Chris Santiago followed Bell’s lead and chipped in with 15 points in a well-balanced attack.
Three Riders scored in double figures, but almost every Riders player put in the game (10 of 11) scored and everyone contributed in the victory.
The Indians played the kind of defense Kelly liked in the first quarter, but couldn’t keep up its effort without defensive standout Travis Irving.
Irving was disqualified to play due to problems at school and the loss definitely hurt the Indians chances at winning.
“Not having Travis hurt us early in the game when we had chances to score,” said head coach Pat Kelly. “Our rhythm wasn’t there and we didn’t finish our shots. We weren’t patient enough and changing our chemistry in the last game doesn’t help.”
All-conference guard Curtis Chandler led the Indians with 17 points, but for the most part, never found his range. He only scored one field goal in the first half and went 4-11 from the floor in the second half.
Second team Henlopen South center Jeremy Purnell created the most excitement for the Indians fans by finishing two offensive rebounds on monster slam dunks. He finished second on the team with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
Despite losing by such a large margin, this season marks the first time since 1997 and 1998 that the Indian River basketball team made the state tournament in back-to-back years.
Indian River didn’t improve on last year’s record (15-8), but did remain over .500 (12-11) and have a solid returning nucleus.
Chandler, Brian Bell and Purnell all return next year and look to be the focal points of the offense. Honorable mention Henlopen South forward Miyo Castro showed that he can contribute at the varsity level as a sophomore with a 14 point average over three games in the second half of the season.
Freshman guard Tyree Oliver returns with a gambit of upcoming junior varsity players moving up the ladder. Guard Jamar Manuel (three assists and two points in loss to Riders), forward Marcus Davis, Tyshun Rembert, Corey Myles and Erin Miller could figure to play significant minutes, depending on who puts in the time this off-season.
“We’ll continue to build toward what we want to do, which is compete in the south and work to improve our position in the south — but it’s going to take some work,” said Kelly. “We need to come harder on defense. We won’t win giving up 80 points. We have to shoot better as a group. Skill-wise we have to get better, and it’s the off-season that makes basketball players. The guys have to do what they have to do in their free time if we’re going to improve.”