From the sports editor: DiVincenzo’s big night was state’s, too

Donte DiVincenzo, right, of Villanova dunks against Charles Matthews, left, of Michigan during the first half of the National Championship game of the NCAA Tournament at the Alamodome on April 2 in San Antonio, Texas. (TNS photo)

The title was on the line when Donte DiVincenzo took over.

In the final eight minutes alone, he scored 13 points.

A few minutes later, the Wilmington basketball standout and his teammates were cutting down the nets.

But that particular performance didn’t come in Villanova’s NCAA championship-game win over Michigan on Monday.

That DiVincenzo outburst helped give Salesianum the 2015 DIAA state title with a 52-45 victory over Polytech. The senior guard netted 23 points in the contest.

“We were double-teaming him and had hands in his face,” Polytech senior Juwan Gray said after the game. “And he still hit his shots. He’s an amazing player.”

So when DiVincenzo poured in 31 points for Villanova before a national TV audience, there was a feeling of both deja vu and pride all around the state.

How many times has a Delaware athlete been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated? (McKean High grad and Dallas Cowboy Hall of Famer Randy White is the only other one who comes to mind).

And where does DiVencenzo’s performance stand on the all-time list of single-game efforts from a Delawarean? Clearly, there haven’t been many on this big a stage.

On the other hand, Villanova coach Jay Wright’s dubbing of DiVincenzo as the ‘Michael Jordan of Delaware’ a couple years ago, while catchy, seemed a bit both uninformed and premature.

Just downstate alone there are players like Delino DeShields, Charles Rayne and Laron Profit that longtime basketball fans would probably like to include in that conversation.

Still, DiVincenzo’s memorable night for Villanova was also a memorable one for his small home state, too.

“People in Delaware are thrilled for him,” said former UD linebacker Paul Worrilow, who signed with the Eagles this week. “He killed it. That was awesome.

“Delaware people love to see Delaware people thrive and shine in the spotlight. That’s real special.”

Just as he did in the 2015 state title game, DiVincenzo ended up with the ball in his hands, flinging it toward the roof as the final horn sounded.

“I did not think I was going to have this type of night, because every night I come into a game, I just try to bring energy,” DiVincenzo said afterward. “And if we get off to a good start, I try to take it to a new level.”

On Monday night, that ‘new level’ ended up being memorably high.

Worrilow coming home

Speaking of Worrilow, when he went to the Eagles-Falcons NFL playoff game in January, it was the first time he’d ever been to a game at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

The Delaware native was hoping it wouldn’t be his last trip there.

“I remember telling my wife, ‘Man, I hope this is my drive to work next year,’” said Worrilow.

This week, the former University of Delaware linebacker’s dream came true when the Eagles signed him as a free agent.

While Worrilow didn’t consider himself a big Eagles’ fan growing up, the area is home for him. His alma mater, Concord High, is no more than 20-30 minutes away from South Philly.

“For me, Philly was the place I wanted to get to,” said Worrilow, who’s made 52 NFL starts. “This is ‘it’ for me. Driving by the stadium as a kid all the time, you look out and see ‘The Linc.’ That’s where I wanted to play. It’s nice to be home.”

Even though Worrilow has played five seasons in the NFL with the Falcons and Lions, he’s still one of the great overachiever stories to come along recently.

Remember, he first came to the Blue Hens as a walk-on after a season in junior college. He then made the Falcons’ roster as a free agent.

“It doesn’t leave you,” said Worrilow. “The biggest thing I’ve learned through all that is I don’t look at ‘down the road.’ I get so focused in on the next task. You just stay so hyper-focused in the present.”

Worrilow has made it to a pair of big, heartbreaking championship games in his career.

In 2010, he was on the Blue Hen squad that fell to Eastern Washington, 20-19, in the NCAA FCS Division I national title game. He was then with the Falcons when the Patriots stormed back to win the 2017 Super Bowl in overtime.

Just the idea of trying to help the Eagles — basically his hometown team — win another Super Bowl is thrilling for Worrilow.

“The opportunity to win a Super Bowl in Philly. … that’s something I could live the rest of my life with,” he said. “That would be it. There’s nothing cooler than that to me.”

Odds & ends

• Caesar Rodney High’s girls’ soccer team will try again to snap its losing streak against perennial state power Padua on Tuesday night. The contest is slated for 6 p.m. at the DE Turf Complex in Frederica.

The Pandas, who also face Delmar at the DE Turf Complex on Monday at 5:30 p.m., are just returning from playing two games in Alabama. Padua hasn’t lost a regular-season game to a Delaware squad since 2014.

• While the weather feels more like winter than summer right now, Camden-Wyoming Little League is slated to hold its opening ceremonies on Friday evening. The other Kent County leagues will open the following weekend.

• The Keith Burgess Invitational track & field meet is scheduled for Saturday at Lake Forest High. Thirteen teams are slated to compete.

• The Dave Reynolds Lacrosse Festival will be held next weekend at Wesley College’s Miller Stadium. Among the matchups on Saturday’s schedule are Dover-Polytech boys (1 p.m.); Caesar Rodney-St. Mark’s girls (5 p.m.) and CR-St. Mark’s boys (7 p.m.).

• The 7th annual Cougars For a Cause 5K Run/Walk to benefit Ben Knapp’s medical fund will be held on April 28 (9 a.m.) at Dover’s Campus Community School. Online registration is available at TriSportsEvents.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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