Hens’ amazing basketball comeback was one to remember

As Davon Usher started his dash down the court, Monte’ Ross wanted to call timeout so bad.

In the frantic final minute of a one-point game with College of Charleston, Ross knew his Delaware men’s basketball team desperately needed a basket.

But the Blue Hens didn’t have any timeouts left.

So all Ross could do was stand there and watch after Usher made a steal.

“I didn’t know where that thing was heading,” admitted the veteran coach.

“The thing about it was, that was a heck of a move he made — that last move,” said Ross. “Dribbling through people and all that kind of stuff.”

On a storybook night for Usher, the senior guard drove in for the go-ahead basket to complete the Hens’ wild comeback. A few minutes later, Usher was in tears as Delaware celebrated a nearly-impossible 67-64 victory on Wednesday.

It’s hard to imagine anybody in the Carpenter Center giving the Hens a chance to win when they trailed by 20 with 8:53 remaining.

This group of Delaware players, though, apparently doesn’t believe the word ‘impossible’ applies to them.

With 12 straight victories, the Hens are still perfect in 2014. Their last loss was on Dec. 30. And they’re now 4-0 since two of their starters were suspended.

“I don’t know what to say, I really don’t,” Ross said as he sat down with reporters on Wednesday night. “That was one of the most amazing games that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Ross was so excited in the closing seconds that he actually started jumping up and down on the sidelines. He said he’s never done that before in 21 years of coaching.

The eighth-year Delaware coach admits he was a little embarrassed afterward.

“I hope that the other team didn’t see it because I’m not trying to show them up,” said Ross. “But … to be down 20 with eight minutes to go and to complete the comeback … I don’t know if I ever acted like that before as a coach. But it was really satisfying, I’ll tell you that.

“I was just so happy for our guys and so happy for their belief in themselves. For them to be able to come back like that, I was overjoyed.”

The fact that Usher finished with 42 points — the highest total for a Delaware player in 50 years — was impressive enough. But how about the fact that he scored 27 of those points in the final nine minutes?

Or think about the fact that the rest of the Hens scored just 25 points total? Usher tallied 63 percent of Delaware’s points.

And consider this — when the Hens trailed by 20, they had managed to score just 31 points in the first 31 minutes.

So how they’d do it? Usher said he was inspired by his grandmother, who died the day before.

“I just feel like it was her, helping us, just leading the way,” said Usher.

Ross said it was about a team — led by Usher and fellow senior Devon Saddler — that never stops believing in itself.

“It’s a really, really confident group,” said Ross. “It’s a group that sticks together. It’s a group that always believes, somehow, some way, we’re going to find a way to win the basketball game.

“And what can you say about Davon Usher and Devon Saddler? Those guys were something tonight. They made play after play after play after play down the stretch for us. … I couldn’t be prouder of their effort, their intensity, the passion that they bring every single day to our building. It’s something to cherish.”

Alone in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Hens hope there’s still bigger things ahead of them this winter.

There probably will be some tough times, too.

But, for a few memorable moments on Wednesday night, they looked like a team that could accomplish anything.

“This,” said Saddler, “is going to be a game that I remember for the rest of my life.”

Capital Classic on tap

The 9th annual Capital Classic Middle School Basketball Tournament will be held on Feb. 11-15 at Dover’s Central Middle School gym.

A dozen boys and girls teams from throughout the state are slated to play in the event, with three divisions on both sides.

On Feb. 11-14, there will be four games played each night starting at 3:30 p.m. Eight games will be played on Feb. 15 starting at 9 a.m.

The top seeds in the boys’ brackets are Smyrna (11-0), Seaford and Cape Henlopen’s Beacon Middle. The top seeds on the girls’ side are Beacon Middle (10-0), Smyrna and Caesar Rodney’s Fifer.

Admission is $3 for students, $5 for adults each day and a concession stand will be available. You can follow the Capital Classic on Twitter@CapClassicHoops and include hashtag #CapClassicDE.

Odds & ends

• The DIAA wrestling dual-meet state tournament fields will be determined today. We’ll have them up on our website (delaware.newszap.com), hopefully by early in the afternoon.

The tourney will be held on Tuesday at Smyrna High.

• Dover’s Joe Spadafino will add another Hall of his Fame to his resume today when he’s inducted into the Delaware ASA Softball Hall of Fame. The power-hitting left-hander was considered one of the top softball players in the country, spending two seasons in the elite Super Division and playing for two national championship squads.

The former Dover High football standout also competed in home run hitting contests in both the Seattle Kingdome and Tiger Stadium, sending eight of 12 homers into the upper deck in Detroit. He once hit 68 homers in a season.

• Be sure to check out continuous coverage of the Winter Olympics on our website (delaware.newszap.com) for the next few weeks. There’s links to all the latest news both on the main page and down the right side of our Central Delaware sports page.

• Nominations are now being accepted for candidates to the Delaware High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Nominations can be made in writing or electronically and should include a letter of nomination, supporting accomplishments and statistics and the candidate’s contribution to baseball in Delaware.

Nominations are due by Feb. 20. They may be sent to: Tom Lemon, 2702 Pecksniff Rd., Wilmington, DE. 19808, or tjl1955@aol.com, or by calling 302-998-0267 with any questions.

• The Kent County Senior Softball League is looking for players ages 55 or older. A draft will be held the first week of March with the league playing its games on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. at Smyrna’s Big Oak Park.

For more information call Chip (302-653-4566), Drew (302-659-2965), Steve (302-751-1010) or Jack (302-223-6091).

• Run or Dye is coming back to Dover International Speedway on July 19. For more information and registration go to http://www.runordye.com/locations/Dover

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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