Bulldogs win first Henlopen South boys basketball crown since 2003

Laurel’s Javier White goes for layup against Lake Forest’s Jaysem Vazquez in the first quarter at Lake Forest. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

FELTON — It might be a distant memory now, but Laurel High boys’ basketball coach Kevin Walmsley remembers how the Bulldogs’ season started.

The first six days featured two losses, including a 32-point defeat at Woodbridge High in Laurel’s first key Henlopen Conference Southern Division contest of the year.

“It was a long bus ride back that night,” Walmsley said. “We got whooped. It was tough. But we came back and practiced the next day and just put our nose to the ground and started going after it.”

And the Bulldogs have not lost since.

Laurel won its 16th game in a row with a 65-58 victory at Lake Forest in a Henlopen South showdown Thursday afternoon. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with an 18-2 record and 13-1 in the Henlopen South.

With the victory, Laurel won its first Henlopen South boys’ basketball title since 2003. It is only the second Henlopen South championship in program history.

Laurel’s Dontarius Jones shoots a layup against Lake Forest in the first quarter.

“We haven’t won it in years probably,” said freshman guard Kylse Wilson. “We just worked, grinded hard and stayed together to play our hardest.”

The Bulldogs finished one game ahead of Woodbridge in the Henlopen South standings. One of their biggest results of the year came when they avenged that early season defeat to Woodbridge with a 66-62 victory over the Blue Raiders on Jan. 14.

Laurel will face Dover High, the Henlopen North champion, in the Henlopen Conference title game Friday, Feb. 28. A location has not been announced yet.

The Bulldogs clinched their spot in the game thanks to a strong shooting performance in the second half at Lake Forest.

Laurel took the lead for good on a three-pointer by Wilson with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. It was Laurel’s sixth made three of the quarter, including a stretch where it went 4-for-4 from deep.

Lake Forest kept it a one-possession game for the first half of the fourth quarter before Laurel freshman Dontarius Jones made back-to-back layups to stretch the advantage to 55-50. That was as close as Lake Forest would get the rest of the way.

As the final seconds ticked down, the red-clad Laurel supporters erupted into a “Laurel, Laurel” chant and one unveiled a 2020 Henlopen South conference champions sign.

Laurel’s KylseWilson goes for a layup against Lake Forest’s Reginal White.

“We got a lot of Laurel people who traveled up with us,” Walmsley said. “It’s just amazing for our kids. We worked hard all year. I’m speechless, I’m just so happy. We got great support from the Laurel community, our superintendent is always with us at games, this is just great for our kids.”

Jones ended the game as Laurel’s top scorer with 18 points. Wilson added 16 while sophomore Javier White scored 14 and freshman Corey Mumford had 10.

That young core is a big reason why the Bulldogs turned a 6-14 record from last year into an 18-2 one this season, says Walmsley.

“It’s the kids commitment,” Walmsley said. “They came in the summer, we did our fall league and then that carried over and we tried to go one game at a time. It started off bad, 2-2, but I can’t say enough about these kids and how they kept fighting.”

Jaysem Vazquez and Tyrone Tolson netted 20 points apiece for Lake Forest who finished the year with an 11-9 overall record and will await word on a possible state tournament bid.