Lady Indians drop Wilmington Friends in first round of hoops postseason
The Blue Jays of Seaford denied Indian River High School’s girls’ varsity basketball team a third consecutive Henlopen Southern Division Championship last week, as the Lady Indians fell, 58-47, but IRHS wouldn’t stay down for long.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Indian River – seeded 12th in the state – vanquished the hopes of the No. 21 Lady Quakers of Wilmington Friends, by a score of 60-45, in the first round of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) Girls’ Basketball Tournament. The Lady Indians entered the tournament for the third consecutive year, with their highest ranking yet.
After struggling in the opening quarter of the game, the Lady Indians found themselves down 15-5, but they came back with an overpowering defense in the second quarter.
“We started the night with a 1-3-1 defensive stand,” said Indian River head coach John Frye, who captured his fourth straight winning season and third playoff berth in his four-year tenure as the team’s head coach, “and they made adjustments to it. I told the girls to keep playing defense, and we switched to a 2-3 and shut them out the second quarter.”
Wilmington Friends were, indeed, shut out, rendered scoreless in the second quarter, as the Indians gained a 22-15 lead by halftime.
“It’s tough when you face a team that you don’t know,” Frye said, “but they don’t know us, either. We held our own on the boards, and the kids played hard. That second quarter was key.”
A fast-paced second half kept both sides ready for anything, as mistimed passes, careless turnovers, desperate personal fouls and failed opportunities gave both sides periodic momentum swings, but the Lady Indians capitalized on the Lady Quakers’ faults.
“We finally started beating them down the court,” noted Frye. “They were pressing us with a full-court man-to-man, and when you do that, someone’s going to be open.”
On several occasions, Indian River senior point-guard Destiny Blake – recently named to the 2012 Blue & Gold roster – executed half-court and full-court passes to find an open teammate under the net. More often than not, that teammate was Keeonya Shelton, who led the Indians with 18 points on the night. Her sister, Keiosha Shelton, was close behind with 14 points. Shanekqua Holden contributed 11 points, while Blake and center Chanel Handy combined for 15.
“Our guards played really strong in that second half,” said Frye, “and they really handled the pressure well. Keeonya was huge for us, and Destiny did everything we needed her to. Her ball-handling was phenomenal, and her passes were really incredible. We were able to limit our turnovers somewhat and earned a great win. When the other team punches, you’ve got to punch right back.”
Indian River rounded out the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, picking up victories in 12 of their last 13 matchups. Although they were edged by Seaford for the postseason divisional championship last Wednesday, Feb. 22, Frye knew his team would come out ready to play in the tournament.
“These girls are so resilient,” he said. “They always bounce back, and with the juniors and seniors we have on the team, they’ve been through the ups and the downs. On the plus side of the Seaford game, we knew that [Wilmington Friends] were a good team, but we knew they weren’t as fast as Seaford. We anticipated a zone, and [the Quakers] hit us with a full-court man [defense], but our girls played really well. Anytime you can pick up a playoff win like that, it’s nice.”
With the first-round playoff victory, the Lady Indians were set to travel to No. 5 St. Elizabeth on Thursday, March 1, (after Coastal Point press deadline), in the second round of the state tournament. Earlier this year, St. Elizabeth bested the Indians but, as Frye noted, his team right now is not the same as the team from the season’s start, which began with a dismal 3-4 record.
“We’re playing a lot better basketball than we showed at the start of the season,” he said. “We’ve got to hold our composure, limit our turnovers and handle their pressure. As long as we get back and play defense, we can win this game. We’re going up there on their court, playing the No. 5 team in the state. To make the final 16 – I’m thrilled, but we want to go even further.”