From the sports editor: Senators trying to cope with sudden end

DOVER — Stephen Wilson is frustrated.

And he’s surrounded by lots of other frustrated people — his Dover High boys’ basketball team, his school, his community, his city.

The Senators had something they’d worked years to get — a DIAA state championship — almost within their grasp and then had it snatched away by an opponent they can’t even see.

“They just wanted an opportunity to finish it off,” Wilson said about his players. “Some of them were visibly upset.

“Hopefully something will change. Hopefully. This is something they’ll remember for the rest of their life. They want a chance to win a state championship. They want to be a state champion.”

In a perfect world — for Dover — they would have woken up this morning as state champions with stories and photos of them celebrating in today’s paper.

But, of course, coronavirus changed everybody’s world this week.

The Senators were supposed to face St. Andrews in the DIAA state semifinals before the state tourney — along with virtually everything else in the sports world — was canceled by the virus and the effort to contain it.

It’s important to note that the situation we find ourselves in is extremely serious and requires an extremely serious response. It’s also worth saying that the people making the hard decisions don’t like making them but only have what’s best for the welfare of everyone in mind.

And, finally, when people’s lives are literally at stake, sports really are secondary right now.

But that doesn’t mean that athletes across the country aren’t genuinely hurting because of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that are being taken from them.

In our community, maybe no one group is feeling that pain more than the Dover boys’ basketball program and its many fans.

You have to remember that, despite its proud tradition, its great teams and its great players, the Senators have never won a state crown.

In 1972, Dover was actually starting to celebrate a state championship-game win over Wilmington when an official’s call took it away.

The Senators have been in the state finals five times and lost each one. They’ve had other squads that were derailed in the state semifinals.

Last year, of course, a 24-0 Dover team fell to Sanford just 48-45 in the title game. It was the Warriors’ ninth state crown.

With most of its roster returning, though, the Senators were determined to get back there. They’d won 21 of 23 games to get themselves in position again.

And then? Nothing.

It’s worth pointing out that Wilson isn’t guaranteeing that Dover would have won the state title. 

“We have two losses in the state in two years,” he said. “Sanford has no losses in the state in two years. St. Andrews is playing some of the best ball that they’ve been playing all year and Appo has been consistent all year long. Why you not have a champion?

“I don’t question the motive of it,” Wilson added about the cancellation. “I just think it might have been a little bit of a quick response.”

As much as anything, Wilson is worried about how this will effect the morale of his players and the community.

The veteran coach said people don’t understand why they still had to go to school on Thursday and Friday — and be around over 1,000 people — yet couldn’t play a game in a closed gym with under 100 people on hand.

Wilson said, behind the scenes, people are trying to find ways to get the games played. But that was before schools were ordered to be closed for the next two weeks.

For now, Wilson is trying to stay in touch with his players. He’s invited them over to his house today to talk some more.

“We’re going to stay around each other,” said Wilson. “We’re going to talk more and I’m going to let them talk and just see what their concerns are.”

However this ends, there’s no question that this has been a special group of Dover basketball players.

They’re 45-3 over the last two seasons, with a 5-1 record in the state tournament and two Henlopen Conference titles to their credit. They’ve captured the attention of the community.

But Wilson said he isn’t ready to think of all that in the past tense, yet.

“I haven’t really thought about those good things like that because I don’t want to talk like it’s over already,” he said. “I don’t want it to end that way right now.”

In the meantime…

Clearly, these are unprecedented times for all of us.

There’s no telling when the sports world will return to any sense of normalcy.

But here at the State News’ sports department, we’re going to do our best to keep bringing you local stories — both about teams and athletes dealing with the situation but also about people who have already accomplished things.

As always, you’re more than welcome to contact us with story ideas. We can’t promise we’ll get to all of them but we promise we won’t get to the ones we don’t know about.