Confidence grows with winning streak for Cape Henlopen girls

The Cape Henlopen High girls’ basketball team has won eight games in a row since falling to Sussex Central in its second game of the season. (Cape Henlopen photo)

LEWES — Pat Woods remembers something one of his players said before the season.

The first-year Cape Henlopen High girls’ basketball coach was talking to his players about their goals for the year.

“One of our returners said, ‘I want to be on a team that expects to win, not just be in the game,’” said Woods.

After eight straight victories, it’s probably safe to say the Vikings have arrived at that point.

Cape Henlopen (6-1 Henlopen North, 9-1 overall) hasn’t lost since falling to Sussex Central, 43-40, on Dec. 4. The Vikings will get the chance to avenge that one loss when they host Central (6-1 North, 8-3 overall) on Friday at 6:15 p.m. in a showdown that may decide the Northern Division title.

Pat Woods

All in all, it’s been a pretty smooth start for Woods, the former Wesley College men’s basketball standout. The 36-year-old Cape grad had been a boys’ assistant coach up until four years ago but hadn’t coached a high school girls’ team before this season.

Woods, who owns the Sports Factory gym in the Rehoboth area, had worked with individuals and some AAU teams before this winter.

“Quite honestly, it’s not as different as I thought,” he said. “During the interview, a big thing was, the girls have to be able to play fast and have fun. And that’s kind of what I like to do, as well. It’s worked out.

“I knew the girls could play and I knew we had talent, It was just a matter of if we can be unselfish, if we can play together and work really hard.”

Woods said he learned a valuable — albeit frustrating — lesson in that early three-point loss to Sussex Central.

The Vikings overcame a seven-point halftime deficit, took the lead with about three minutes remaining only to lose it in the final minute. Woods said he wishes he had his players better prepared to handle late-game situations.

“It still aggravates me, thinking about it,” Woods said with a laugh, “It’s been bothering me for a long time. It was necessary.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said about Friday’s rematch. “It will be a good measurement for us.”

As well as things have gone for Cape against downstate competition so far, Woods knows there’s a whole different level of tougher competition upstate. Central has lost to defending state champion Conrad and St. Elizabeth by a combined 69 points.

The Vikings beat Padua and host St. Elizabeth on Jan. 26. They also scrimmaged Sanford in the preseason.

“We want to get there,” said Woods. “That’s kind of where we want to be. I don’t think that puts more pressure on them. They kind of feel the pressure anyway and they seem to be fine with it. I said, let’s just own it.”

The goal, of course, is to be able to compete with those upstate teams in the DIAA state tournament.

The Vikings didn’t make the state tourney last year after finishing 10-10. While Cape should finish well beyond that victory total this year, Woods said he doesn’t dwell too much on the Vikings’ current winning streak.

“Quite honestly, we haven’t talked about how many we’ve won in a row,” he said. “That really hasn’t been something we’ve thought about. Not that we’re trying to avoid it. I just don’t think about it in those terms and I don’t think the girls do.

“We see the next opponent and we expect to win it. … Maybe it’s just me and maybe I’m naive, but we don’t really think about the prior games at all. When the game’s over, it’s like, ‘Let’s go to the next one.’”

Free throws

•At 11-0, Dover’s boys’ team already has more victories than it had in each of the last two seasons. The Senators don’t have far to travel today when they play a 5:30 p.m. contest at ECHS@DSU at Delaware State’s Wellness Center.

•The only player ahead of Woods (285) on Wesley’s all-time assist list is Caesar Rodney boys’ coach Freeman Williams (331).

•Dover and CR (8-2) are the only Henlopen North boys’ teams that currently have winning overall records.

•Woodbridge’s unbeaten girls’ team puts its 9-0 record on the line tonight when it hosts St. Georges (8-1) at 5:45 p.m. The Blue Raiders also go to Wilmington to take on Padua (7-3) on Jan. 24.

•Cape Henlopen’s girls play seven of their last 10 regular-season games at home.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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