CR advances past Appoquinimink in state tourney

 

CR’s Najee Watson goes up for a flying layup against Appoquinimink at CR on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — Coming out firing is one thing.

Coming out firing and making some outside shots is another thing altogether.

Caesar Rodney High’s first six field goals were all three-pointers and the No. 13 Riders turned the fast start into a 60-46 victory over No. 20 Appoquinimink in the first round of the DIAA boys’ basketball state tournament on Tuesday night.

CR (14-7) never trailed in earning the program’s first state tourney win since 2010.

The victory sends the Riders to fourth-seeded William Penn (16-5) for a second-round tournament matchup on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

As much as he liked his players hitting some early threes, CR coach Freeman Williams liked the way they moved the ball just as much.

“One of the things we talked about was, give up a good shot for a great shot,” he said. “I thought today the guys were very unselfish. We talk about a hockey assist — the assist that leads to the assist.

“We’ve been preaching that for the last three or four weeks. Tonight, we were able to see the fruits of some of our labors and efforts that we’ve been putting in.”

Junior Shaft Clark (18 points) and Jaden Corbett (18 points) combined to sink three three-pointers each in the Riders’ opening run. And when senior Timothy Spence sank CR’s seventh three, the Riders owned a 27-11 advantage with 4:20 left in the second quarter.

Corbett finished with four of CR’s eight threes in the contest.

“I definitely think we came out shooting the ball pretty well and sharing the ball as a team,” said Corbett. “I feel like it gives the team energy to keep rolling. And then after hitting shots, we get stops on defense.”

“It feels good,” said Clark. “Last year we got knocked off in the first game of the playoffs. We didn’t like that so we came ready to play. The energy was there.”

The Jaguars (13-8) stayed within range of CR, pulling within 28-20 at halftime. But the Riders kept Appo at arm’s length, taking a 41-28 advantage after three quarters and never leading by fewer than nine points in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars, who got a team-high 16 points from Kamal Yellowdy, had gone 11-4 since losing to CR, 69-55, on Dec. 20.

“We’re capable of doing some things as long as we play together, share the ball and play defense on every possession,” said Corbett.

The Riders, who had lost their last three state tournament games, haven’t reached the state quarterfinals since 2009. They made it all the way to the state finals that year before falling to William Penn in the state championship game.

Now CR will have to knock off the Colonials if they want to get to the Carpenter Center on Saturday.

“The thing we talk about is, if we rebound, if we defend, if we take care of the basketball, you always give yourself an opportunity to win,” said Williams. “We felt that we played in a really tough Northern Division this year. We had a lot of games that were close. With a few possessions here or there, the outcomes could have been different.

“What we talked about then was, either we win games or we learn. So we’ve done a lot of learning in the course of the year. Now it’s time to just continue to learn, continue to work to get ready for the next opportunity on Thursday.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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