Dover, Sanford set for title game clash: Senators seek unbeaten season today

Elijah Allen of Dover drives past Caravel’s Justin Owens. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

NEWARK — Delaware high school basketball teams have wanted to see the matchup all year.

Dover High and Sanford School will give it to them on the biggest stage.

The two teams will meet today at 1 p.m. in Newark at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center with a state championship on the line.

Dover enters as the No. 2 seed undefeated at 24-0. Sanford (19-4) is the top seed and is unbeaten against instate teams.

The Senators clinched their place in the final in the first semifinal on Thursday night. While on the way back to the locker room, they passed by Sanford’s team was preparing to run out for warmups.

“They were kind of chanting, ‘That’s what we want right there,’” said Sanford coach Stan Waterman. “So we’ll get to see a pretty good matchup Saturday. We’ll be ready.”

Dover has never won a state championship in boys’ basketball. Sanford enters with eight state titles, adding to the intrigue of the matchup.

“I know everybody wants to see it,” said Dover coach Stephen Wilson. “No. 1 vs. No. 2, compete and leave it out on the floor.”

If Dover wins, the Senators would become the state’s first unbeaten state champion in boys’ basketball since St. Mark’s (26-0) in 1995.

These two teams met nine years ago in the championship game, with Sanford taking the 2010 crown.

“If we have the same outcome, I’ll be satisfied,” Waterman said.

So there is a little revenge factor for the Dover staff, although the Senators want the elusive state title more than any revenge.

Dover’s John Lassiter drives to the basket for a shot with Caravel’s Nyahnquoi Togbanyahn trying to block.

“Just to be in the game, I’m happy,” Wilson said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about that (2010). It doesn’t matter, though, we got to play somebody. I’m just happy that Dover is in the state championship.”

Dover has finished as runner-up in the tournament four times. The Senators fell on a controversial buzzer-beater in 1972 to Wilmington before losses to Brandywine (1977), Glasgow (2003) and Sanford (2010).

While the two teams have not played in the regular season since Dec. 27, 2015, a 77-59 Sanford victory at Slam Dunk to the Beach, Waterman said he’s been able to watch Dover often.

He attended the Henlopen Conference championship game when Dover defeated Lake Forest. He said he was impressed with the standout guard duo of Eden Davis and Elijah Allen.

“Those guys are unbelievable,” Waterman said. “Allen, watching him shoot the ball when I went down to the Henlopen Conference championship, I saw him put on an incredible shooting display. Then Eden is just so quick off the dribble and shoots well off the dribble.”

While Dover’s stars are its guards, Sanford is paced by its big men. Junior forward Jyare Davis has interest from numerous high-major Division I programs and sophomore center Nnanna Njoku is right behind him.

Davis finished with 20 points and eight rebounds in Sanford’s semifinal victory over St. Georges.

Dover’s center had a big game of his own in the semifinals. Jyheim Spencer recorded eight blocks, nine rebounds and three steals as Dover downed Caravel.

“He’s pretty good with his timing and blocking shots,” Waterman said. “He’ll cause some problems for you defensively. But we got some size and we’ll try to take advantage of that, maybe go right at him and see how it works out for us.”

“They’ve had an outstanding season,” Waterman added. “They’re undefeated obviously, we haven’t lost in state. They’re very good. They’re very talented. They’re quick, they’re athletic and they score at a pretty high rate.”

For Wilson, he’s happy he has one more day of practice with this group, followed by a chance to make history.

“We put ourselves in a position to finish off the season undefeated,” Wilson said. “Win or lose, I’m proud of what they’re doing right now and the way they’re representing right now. We’re not going into it to lose, but one loss or one more win, it’s a magical ride these kids have us on and we’re very appreciative from the dedication and support the community is showing us. We’re going to do the best we can to bring it home.”

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