It was the date on the calendar they had been waiting for since they had first been told when the season would officially tip-off for games.
Tuesday, Jan. 12, a road game at Sussex Academy. One of 14 games in a truncated schedule that would include only contests against their Henlopen Athletic Conference South Division rivals.
The Indian River High School boys’ basketball team came out like a house on fire from the opening tip, en route to a 54-37 win over the Seahawks. Senior Willem Lambertson led all scorers with 18 points, while classmate Gage Spinks followed with 15 markers of his own. Combined, the duo nearly outscored the entire host team by themselves.
“It was a good start to get the win, but certainly there were ups and downs,” said Lambertson, who is serving as a co-captain this year. “Our effort and energy was certainly down. It seemed like [Sussex Academy] were the team that was better, the way they were bouncing around and playing harder than us. What matters is that we came out with the win. Obviously, we are gonna learn from that. We really just gotta get ready for Thursday, because we know we are playing a more scrappy aggressive team than” the Seahaws, he said ahead of the Jan. 14 game. “We gotta work hard at practice,” he said of their Wednesday practice, “and just get ready for Thursday.”
Lambertson drained three trifectas over the course of the 32 minutes, and rarely — if ever — came off the floor. His veteran leadership and winning attitude, which is a carryover from also being a captain on the Indians’ boys’ soccer state-title winning team, are traits that head coach Devin Mann is thrilled to have right from the beginning of this season.
“Having Will healthy this year is a big deal for us, to help Gage with the ball handling and the scoring load,” Mann said of Lambertson, who had to sit out most of last year with an injury. “I’m excited to have him and, honestly, it was an off shooting night for him, with the way he’s been shooting in practice. He came to me and said he was gonna work on it. Just the ability to get some scoring from somebody other than Gage is exciting.”
The Indians jumped out to a 19-5 lead through the first quarter of play, and narrowly stretched that lead to 30-15 at the halftime break.
However, Sussex Academy came out looking to make things interesting to start the second half with a 10-2 run through the first three minutes. However, the Indians were able to weather the storm, and settled in the rest of the way for the win, including putting things away in the fourth quarter as they outscored the Seahawks 16-11.
“They were very anxious” coming into the game, Mann assessed. “I kept trying to make sure that they knew to calm down, and kind of focus on the goals that we set for the game. We set periodical goals for the game. As we were reaching certain times on the clock, we were supposed to have certain things accomplished. I was trying to get them focused on that. Clearly with the jitters, kind of moving too fast at times. But credit them,” he said of the Seahawks. “They were working hard and flying around.”
Joshua Townsend and Ja’siah Rounds scored 8 and 6 points, respectively, for the Indians, with Brendon Bradford (3), Jamie Burns (2) and Andrew Burns (2) also chipping in for the offensive effort. Spinks knocked down a pair of triples amongst his 15 points on the night.
The Seahawks were led by Tucker Anthony’s team-high 11 markers. Allen Hopler added 8 points, while Michaelson Bernard (6) and Anthony Oscar (5) hit some shots for the hosts. Anthony, Oscar, Hopler and Riley Custodio each hit one shot from beyond the arc.
The Indians were set to travel to Delmar on Thursday night (after Coastal Point press time) to face the Wildcats. A full report on the game will be found on our Facebook page, under Coastal Point Sports News.