CR girls aim for another successful basketball season

CR’s Kylie Kornegay-Lucas shoots against St. Elizabeth the fourth quarter during the DIAA Girls Basketball quarter finals. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CAMDEN — It took Caesar Rodney High’s girls’ basketball team months of hard work to win 21 games last winter.

But it took just one sub-par contest to end such a promising campaign for the Riders.

St. Elizabeth ran off the first 17 points of the third quarter to oust No. 2 CR, 58-36, in the DIAA state quarterfinals last March.

“It was kind of devastating,” said Brionna Brooks, now a senior guard for CR. “We felt like we should have went further in the tournament.”

The silver lining for the Riders was that they knew most of their roster was returning from a squad that finished 21-2 and captured the Henlopen Conference title.

That puts CR in pretty good position to pick up where it left off when it opens the season today by hosting Sussex Central in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division matchup at 5:30 p.m.

Most of the other basketball teams in the Henlopen Conference, both boys and girls, will jump right into their divisional schedules tonight when the high school winter sports season officially gets underway.

CR coach Bill Victory’s challenge is to push his veteran squad to keep improving and not settle for just getting by. At practice this week, he wasn’t sure the Riders were ready to hit the ground running.

CR’s Brionna Brooks looks to steal against St. Elizabeth’s Alexis Bromwell for the ball during the third quarter during the DIAA Girls Basketball quarter finals. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“They look like the team that I had last year,” said Victory. “But right now, with some injuries, I don’t know how focused we are just yet. There’s some missing ingredients. I think we’re going to figure it out but right now we’re just not there.”

CR returns its top three players from last season. Junior Kylie Kornegay-Lucas was a first-team All-Henlopen North pick while seniors Alexis Reid and Brooks were both second-team selections.

Zoe Scott and Malaka Gillette give the Riders four seniors on their current 10-player roster.

Victory has tried to put together a more difficult schedule for the Riders. Along with in-state matchups with St. Elizabeth, Caravel and Conrad, CR will also face some good out-of-state competition, especially at the Diamond State Classic in December.

“I just felt like we weren’t battle-tested last year when it came down to it,” said Victory. “We got a lot of ‘W’s’ but some of the games were too easy for us. We didn’t really have to push ourselves.

“Even taking a couple ‘L’s’ and really getting pushed, I think that’s going to be to our benefit down the road.”

Victory hopes CR will have a little more presence under the basket this winter. Scott, Gillette and junior Trinity Wailes all stand 5-foot-11 or taller.

Scott is farther along in her recovery from surgery to have a tumor removed from her neck two years ago.

“Part of the reason we struggled at times last year was because we didn’t have an inside presence,” said Victory. “I think our guards are solid, it’s just the inside game we have to be able to do a better job with.”

CR’s head coach Bill Victory gives instructions during the DIAA Girls Basketball quarter finals. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The Riders say they don’t dwell too much on last year’s state quarterfinal loss. But, like every team, their goal is to be playing their best basketball at the end of the season.

“We want to keep working harder so, when it comes down to it and we’re in the Bob (Carpenter Center), we won’t play how we did last year,” said Brooks. “I felt like our intensity wasn’t there (against St. Elizabeth). It basically was like we were ready for the season to be over.”

“Really, it’s not about the last game that you play, it’s about your journey,” said Victory. “To me, our journey was really good (last year). We did some really good things and came a long way.

“But we didn’t finish the right way. So we really have some unfinished business we need to take care of.”

Free throws

• Defending boys’ state champion Smyrna opens the season with a big North contest at Cape Henlopen at 6:15 p.m. The Eagles aren’t expected to be at full strength, though, because at least a couple contributing players are still playing football in the District I state title game on Saturday.

• Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews and Cape Henlopen’s Randy Rickards are the only first-team All-North boys’ players from last year returning. Woodbridge’s Hasson Corbin and Lake Forest’s Isaiah Morris are both back in the South.

• Jahi Davenport will make his debut as Dover’s girls’ head cooach today when the Senators host Sussex Tech at 6:45 p.m.

• Polytech’s girls’ squad will open the season with four freshmen and only one senior on its roster.

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