As with many high school sports teams throughout the state, finding some sense of normalcy and consistency in their seasons is a daily battle thanks to COVID-19. The Indian River High School boys basketball team is in the same boat with the rest of those teams.

Unfortunately, after a season-opening win over Sussex Academy, the Indians have struggled to get settled into the grind of their 2021 campaign.

Their past two games have been proof that they not only have to work out some physical kinks, but also some struggles in the mental aspect of the game.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the Indians found themselves in a 22-0 hole in the first quarter, and were never able to fully recover in a 76-60 setback to Laurel. The Bulldogs wound up stretching that initial lead to 34-6 by the end of the first, and even increased it as high as 33 points in the first half.

“We started out trailing 22-0, and lost the first quarter 34-6,” said IR head coach Devin Mann. With three minutes left in the third, we had cut it down to six. We couldn’t get it under six, and (the Bulldogs) slowly kept building it back up to 16.”

Senior Gage Spinks led the Indians with 16 points with Josh Townsend adding 15 of his own. Willem Lambertson and Brendon Bradford each chipped in with 9 points.

“My biggest frustration is that for the second straight game in a row, we showed a stretch where ... offensively we got ourselves into a rhythm,” added Mann. “However, putting ourselves in a 22-point deficit, and it eventually it going to 33, takes a lot of energy just to get back into the game. It makes it hard to close out and finish a game.”

Against Woodbridge on Thursday, Jan. 21, the Indians were up four at the half on the Blue Raiders, but struggled over the final 16 minutes as Woodbridge’s physical style of play wore down the green and gold.

The Blue Raiders erased their four-point halftime deficit by the end of the third, and then out-scored the Indians by 16 in the fourth for the final margin of victory, 58-42.

“We controlled the game from the start all the way to midway through the third,” Mann noted. “Defensively, we held them scoreless in the second quarter until about 90 seconds remained. We started the third quarter on fire, and we were up by 17 at one point. We just wore down.

“Woodbridge is a team full of football players, and the entire game they were physical. They were bumping us, finding contact, and not letting us get to our spots. They wore us down in that manner. When we started running out of gas, they found a second gear. Mentally, when we got tired, the mistakes started pouring in as (Woodbridge) never changed what they did, but we mentally collapsed after dominating the majority of the game. We talk about having mental toughness and conditioning all of the time. The Woodbridge game showed we have a ways to go in those two categories.”

Spinks again led the Indians with a game-high 16 points, while Ja’siah Rounds added 9, and Bradford 8.

IR will look to snap their three-game slide during a visit to Lake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 10 a.m. The Spartans (1-1) are back in action following a two-week hiatus.

Results for the game can be found on the Coastal Point Sports News Facebook page.

Staff Reporter

Jason has been in journalism for 20 years. He moved to Coastal Delaware in August 2017 with his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Kylie, 17, and Grace, 12. He has a passion for high-school sports and especially values the relationships that builds.