Lady Indians aim for division title, ready for state tourney
If there was ever a right time to turn things on after a dismal 3-4 start to their 2011-2012 season, Indian River High School’s girls’ varsity basketball team found it. In the final week of their regular season, the Lady Indians defeated Dover and Seaford – two teams that got the best of them earlier in the year. The wins served as exclamation points for Indian River’s turn-around year, which saw 12 victories in their last 13 games, including a 10-0 streak to close out the season.
Indian River’s 56-54 win over the Lady Blue Jays of Seaford came last Thursday, Feb. 16, and matched rivaling Seaford’s conference record of 10-2 for a tie at the top of the Henlopen South. A division championship to determine the Southern Henlopen title was set to take place this Wednesday, Feb. 22, (after Coastal Point press deadline) on neutral ground at Sussex Tech.
For the past two seasons, the Lady Indians have captured the Henlopen Southern Division championship, and Indian River head coach John Frye said he hoped to repeat the trend for a third straight year.
“We’ll need to handle Seaford’s pressure,” he said. “We missed some foul shots in our last game against them, and we can’t afford to do that. We need to finish, make layups under the basket and keep focused.”
In the Indians’ final game of the regular season, Shanekqua Holden led the team with 19 points. Keiosha Shelton netted 14 points, including two three-pointers, and Keeonya Shelton contributed 10 points.
“It was all sheer hustle,” said Frye. “Keiosha scored seven of her points in the final quarter. Shanekqua stepped up when we needed her, and Keeonya did what she had to do in the post. We had to play with confidence and limit our turnovers. We had to make them work for their points, and when they’d make a run, we had to come right back.”
The Lady Blue Jays’ Lashyra Williams and Jade Purnell scored 20 and 14 points, respectively, but the Lady Indians kept the pressure high.
“We knew Seaford was going to bring a quick team,” Frye noted, “and, at first, we tried to play man, but then we dropped back to our 1-3-1 zone. We knew we had to get out on their shooters.”
Point-guard and team captain Destiny Blake was limited to seven points for the Indians, but Frye noted that, without her, the game could have easily gone the other way.
“Most teams mark up two players on Destiny when she’s out there,” he said. “She had her hands full, but she played hard. Our girls were running baseline to baseline, and Destiny did a great job controlling the ball for us.”
Seaford attempted to make a run near the end of the final quarter, but a last-ditch opportunity to tie it up bounced off the rim.
“We have definitely peaked at the right time,” said Frye. “It was a rough game, and we had a few girls get four fouls on them, but girls came in off the bench and did what we needed them to do. Brianna [Marshall], Kitty [Cole] and Francesca [Lanuza] got right in there and played like champions. We weren’t going to give up.”
Despite starting the season 3-4 with early losses to Cape Henlopen, St. Elizabeth, Dover and Seaford, the Indians bounced back, propelling themselves to the top of the division and closing out a 15-5 record.
“Earlier this year,” said Frye, “we were ridiculed. We were getting blown out of games, and it took heart, but these girls did what they needed to do. Hats off to them. I’ve told the team, ‘Champions aren’t made at games or in practice. They’re made in your heart.’
“We still have some things to work on, but we came back to defeat Seaford on their court, on their Senior Night,” he emphasized. “To go 12-1 on the stretch, I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be here, playing the way we’re playing, but we are.”
This weekend, as other teams wrap up their regular seasons, the seedings and schedule for the state tournament are to be announced. Currently, Indian River sits at fifth in the state, behind Ursuline, Hodgson VoTech, Seaford and Sanford, as despite an even 10-2 conference record, the Lady Jays, 16-4, hold a slightly better overall record than the Indians.