Dover girls improve, seek winning season

Dover’s Tamyah Jones, right (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — Understandably, the seniors were the ones who took it the hardest.

They were the ones who saw their Dover High girls’ basketball careers end short of making the DIAA state tournament last season.

The Senators played well down the stretch but fell to Cape Henlopen and Padua in their last two games. They ended up 10-10.

“I kind of know now how they feel,” said Riana Sizer, a senior on this year’s Dover squad. “Senior year, you want to win every game — you want to make every game count.

“After the loss (to Padua), it was kind of hard. It was like, ‘Wow, the season’s really over.’ It was sad to see it end that way.”

Considering they graduated those four seniors, this year’s Senators are a much different team. Sizer and Keriane Smith are the only seniors.

Ally Manifold of Dover drives the baseline past Polytech defender Claire Fuchs.

But the goals of finishing with a winning record and getting to the state tourney still remain. While Dover has made the state tournament twice in the last three years, it hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2015.

The Senators are 3-2 right now — which is better than the 1-4 mark they started last year with.

“Right now, we still don’t have a true identity,” said second-year coach Jahi Davenport. “It’s just the thrill of finding out who we are.

“That (3-2 record) is totally different from this time last year when we were 1-4. Everybody was stressed. We had a reality check. … But (this year) it’s good for the kids to see their hard work is paying off a little bit.”

One of the Senators’ few veteran players is junior Tamyah Jones, who was a second-team All-Henlopen North selection last winter. She’s averaging a team-best 15.8 points per game this year.

Dover girls basketball head coach Jahi Davenport during a timeout in the first quarter of Friday’s game with Polytech.

Jones said it’s been interesting watching the young players figure some things out, just since the start of the season.

“They’re just so quiet,” said Jones. “But when you see them get comfortable and see progression, it’s amazing.”

“There’s a lot of different personalities and new backgrounds,” said Sizer, who is averaging 9.6 points per game. “They were quiet at first when I met them so we got them to start talking. I definitely can see a difference — not just as they are as people but basketball-wise, too, they’re starting to come out of their shells.”

One of those new players is junior Ally Manifold. She saw a little bit of time on the varsity at the end of last season.

Manifold has scored 35 points in Dover’s last three games to bring her season average to 8.6 per game. The point guard netted a career-high 15 points in the Senators’ 56-51 win over rival Caesar Rodney on Dec. 7.

It marked the first time Dover beat the Riders since 2015.

“Last year, I looked up to a lot of those seniors,” said Manifold, whose sister, Ashley, was one of the four seniors. “Now I’m just trying to embrace my role on the team.

“Last year I was timid to shoot the ball a lot of times. But this year I have more confidence in my shot. We have a young team but I think we’re all pretty confident. And we trust each other a lot. Every time we win a game, I think our confidence grows more and more.”

After beating Polytech, 56-44, lasts Friday, the Senators don’t play again until Dec. 27. Dover faces Concord at 3 p.m. on Dec. 27 in the first day of the Pat Borowski Tournament at Lake Forest.

After winning three of their last four games, the Senators want to keep their momentum going. Last year they went 9-6 after Christmas.
Even in Dover’s last loss — a 60-53 setback at Sussex Central — the Senators played hard until the end, out-scoring the Golden Knights, 21-4, in the fourth quarter.

Dover’s players know they have to show that kind of determination right from the start of games.

“I’m just ready to win and go to the tournament,” said Jones. “I feel like when we come back from break that we’re just going to be better than ever.”

“Last year we had a losing record going into break,” said Sizer. “This year, we’re not really where we want to be but we have a winning record. So we’re doing pretty good. We’re slowing earning our respect as the season goes on.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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