Dover girls off to 6-0 start

Tamyah Jones

DOVER — It’s not like 10-10 is a bad record.

But for the Dover High girls’ basketball team, 10-10 just hasn’t been good enough.

Finishing with that .500 record over the past two seasons has left the Senators outside of the DIAA state tournament looking in.

What’s even more frustrating for third-year coach Jahi Davenport is that Dover made the tourney in 2016-17 with a 9-11 mark. The Senators’ strength of schedule just hasn’t been quite good enough the last couple seasons.

“You have got to strategically plan your schedule in order to be in the hunt,” he said.
“We’re in the matrix right now, just trying to find how to get out,” Davenport added with a laugh.

Of course, the simplest way to reach the state tournament is just for the Senators to keep winning.

At 6-0, Dover is well on its way to surpassing the program’s 10-victory total for each of the past three seasons. But Davenport knows better than to take anything for granted.

Dover returns from the holiday break with a 6:30 p.m. game at Caesar Rodney on Tuesday. That starts a run of seven straight Henlopen Conference Northern matchups for the Senators, who are 4-0 in the division right now.

Still, Dover isn’t going to complain about being the only unbeaten Henlopen girls’ squad a month into the season.

“We’re just working together,” said senior standout Tamyah Jones. “We’re communicating more. We’ve gotten to know each other. It’s so exciting — 6-0.”

“We definitely want to make it past 10-10,” said junior Jasmine Starling. “We’ve been 10-10 for a few years now. We want to get our respect back in the state.

“We’re thinking ahead. We know we have Cape and some upstate teams. We know we have to handle business. We know what we have coming.”

The Senators haven’t faced defending North champion Cape Henlopen yet. They host the Vikings on Jan. 9 before traveling to Lewes on Feb. 4.

Dover also plays at Padua on Jan. 30 and at Ursuline on Feb. 17.

The Senators’ current seven-game regular-season winning streak is the program’s longest since the 2014-15 season. Dover won 11 games in a row that winter.

If there’s one thing that’s helped the Senators be more consistent is their ability to play defense. Dover is allowing just 25.8 points per game this year.

While that stat is at least partly due to some opponents struggling on offense, the Senators say they’re serious about playing good defense.

“I really like how we communicate as a team on defense,” said Starling. “And we’re getting better with that as the year goes on.

“Our defense wins games. … Our offense is based off our defense.”

“This team has really bought into defense,” said Davenport. “I tell them, sometimes that rim has a lid on it. But you can always get it back on defense.

“They know it’s a 50-50 game. If you get that (defense) down pat, you frustrate teams and you keep them from being comfortable, you see some different things happen.”

In the middle of the winter season, where some teams go weeks without playing a game, the players’ own motivation can go a long way in determining how their season goes from here.

The Senators, who had a pair of 8 a.m. practices this week, say they’re ready to work hard for their goals.

“We’ve been in the gym,” said Jones. “I see he (Davenport) is trying to give us a break but we’re like, ‘Coach, why give us a break? We’re doing so good, let’s get back in the gym.’ I know a couple people are upset when we can’t come in the gym.

“That’s a really good thing. I’m like, oh my gosh, everybody has dedication to the team. I love it.”

“We get hype when we have to come to practice and the music is playing,” said Starling. “We just know that we have to get ready for the games.”

The last thing Davenport wants is his players to let their 6-0 start go to their heads. But he senses that nobody is getting carried away with a little success.

All he can ask is that they keep working hard at it.

“We have a philosophy — don’t let our highs get too high and our lows get too low,” said Davenport. “If you walk in there and start reading your own press clippings, you stop keeping up the grind.

“It’s so early but the team has a little bit different approach to the game. I think they’re getting it. They just have a sense of humbleness. I think they know where they want to go and they know what it takes.”