CAMDEN — Caesar Rodney High still wants its shot at winning the Henlopen Conference Northern title.
But the Riders weren’t going to get that chance if they couldn’t cool off rival Dover first.
CR, though, took care of business, ending the Senators’ 11-game winning streak with a decisive 71-41 win in a Henlopen North girls’ basketball showdown on Wednesday night.
The victory keeps the Riders (9-1 North, 14-3 overall) just behind Sussex Central (9-0 North) in the division race. CR hosts the Golden Knights in its North finale on Feb. 20.
“Of course that was in the back of our minds,” said senior Whitney Victory. “If we were to lose this, it would have shot us in the foot for the title. So there was a lot more on this game than just being a crosstown rival.”
“We can’t stumble here,” CR coach Bill Victory told his players. “If we stumble here, or stumble against Central, it’s the same thing. They wanted to try to push this game until after the Central game. But I wasn’t doing that.
“I needed to play this game right now so that when my kids go into the gym (against Central), it’s all about that game.”
While the Riders have now won their last seven meetings with Dover (8-3, 12-4), the Senators did test CR in stretches on Tuesday night.
After a first half that featured 48 turnovers — including 28 by Dover — the Senators trailed just 31-22. Dover led by as many as three points in the early going.
But the Riders kept up the pressure, scoring the first eight points of the second half and eventually outscoring the Senators 22-5 in the third quarter. CR got a number of layups off steals as it ended up forcing Dover into 46 turnovers for the game.
“We work hard in practice,” said Whitney Victory. “We run a lot so we’re able to press these teams and get those easy baskets. We’re not the best shooting team so we have to get what we can take from our defense.”
“In the first half we didn’t play very well,” said Bill Victory. “We went in the locker room and made some adjustments. The kids came out with a little intensity and just did what they needed to do. I liked that, especially when it’s a big rival.
“These kids know each other. They’ve been talking back and forth on social media. I think we put a stamp on it.”
Four Riders scored in double figures: Simone London (17 points), Alizae Dollins (12), Victory (11) and Alissa Haith (10). CR took a lot of shots to get those points — the Riders were 24-of-76 from the floor (32 percent).
But, after committing 20 first-half turnovers, CR had just five in the final two quarters.
Alexis Heath led Dover with 14 points. First-year Senator coach Katie Byrnes knew that dealing with the Riders’ defense was going to be an issue for her squad.
“They’re a very athletic team,” she said about CR. “So are we but we were just not moving quick enough. They had us beat on speed, they had us beat on pressure and that’s what hurt us. We were coming off our screens slow.
“We knew it was going to be a tough physical game the whole way. We had to come out and play our ‘A’ game.”
Dover has to turn right around and play a 3:30 p.m. game today at Mount Pleasant (13-4). Byrnes, though, didn’t think one loss would ruin her team’s confidence.
“It stings after 11 straight,” she said. “But they’ve got their heads up and they’re ready to roll.”
Including Tuesday’s contest, the Riders face a tough final stretch of the regular season. They close the schedule with games against Sussex Central and Sanford (Feb. 23).
“Out of the four teams we have left to play, three of them are going to be in the tournament,” said Bill Victory. “It’s a good way to kind of build to where we need to be.”
Sports editor Andy Walter
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