High school basketball notebook: Dover girls turn season around

Dover’s Tamyah Jones (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — As funny as it sounds, it may have been a lopsided loss that got Dover High’s season turned around.

On Dec. 28, the short-handed Senators fell to Polytech by 25 points in the Pat Borowski girls’ basketball tournament.

The setback dropped Dover’s record to just 2-5.

“I think that’s when they realized, we need each other,” said Dover coach Jahi Davenport. “Even to the last person down on our bench, we rely on each other.”

With a renewed sense of teamwork, the Senators have clearly played much better lately. They’ve won eight of their last 11 games, including four in a row,

That leaves Dover with an overall record of 10-8 (4-7 Henlopen North) going into tonight’s North finale against Cape Henlopen (5-6, 8-9). Tipoff is slated for 6:45 p.m. at Dover.

It’s only the second time in the last six seasons that the Senators have reached double digits in victories during the regular season.

Dover’s Ashley Manifold. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Of course, early in the season, Dover’s players were also adjusting to Davenport. After 13 years coaching in the Senators’ boys’ program, he was coaching girls’ basketball for the first time.

Davenport is Dover’s third different head coach in three seasons.

“Because we had to go through a coaching change again, we weren’t able to have our offseason conditioning and just being together as a team,” said senior Ashley Manifold. “We were separated. Then, as soon as Nov. 15 came around, we were all thrown together. It was just getting that teamwork back together.

“We knew it would take time. Once the new year hit, it really clicked.”

“Every day I learn something new with these girls,” said Davenport. “It’s pretty cool.

“I think the buy-in is there. After their situation of having three coaches in three years, I think the trust is starting to build.”

Manifold is one of four seniors on Dover’s roster. She’s joined by Maya Guthrie, Tajanae Henry-Coney and Jacarra Jackson.

But the Senators also have four sophomores, including Tamyah Jones, who is the team’s leading scorer. She likes Davenport’s attention to details and the way they work more on specific skills.

Jones thinks Dover’s success in the second half of the season comes down to chemistry.

“I didn’t feel like we were really connected (early),” she said. “But, going through the season, we’ve gotten closer and closer. We realize that we all make mistakes.”

The Senators hope their record is good enough to get them into the DIAA state tournament. A year ago they made it at 9-11.

Dover has played in the tourney in three straight seasons. But the Senators, who close the regular season on Thursday night with a nonconference contest at Padua, know another win or two would definitely help their resume.

“We’re just like, ‘We’ve got to communicate,’” said Jones. “‘Work together — don’t be selfish with the ball. Do our thing but do it together.’”

“Basically our main focus this year was to gain our respect,” said Manifold. “I think we’ve done that.

“This is one of the best seasons we’ve had. We just want to show other teams in the state that we are competitive.”

Free throws

• Sussex Tech’s girls (10-0 North, 14-2 overall) can clinch the Henlopen North title today when they go to Caesar Rodney (9-2, 11-6) for a 5 p.m. showdown. If CR wins, it would then need Sussex Tech to lose to Polytech on Saturday to force a playoff game for the North crown.

• If Smyrna (10-1 North, 15-2) and Cape Henlopen (9-1, 15-2) end up tied for the boys’ North title, they would have a playoff game to determine the champion. The two teams split their two regular-season meetings.

The Eagles finish their North slate tonight at Polytech while the Vikings host Dover tonight before going to Caesar Rodney on Feb. 19.

• Lake Forest (9-3 South, 11-6) hosts Woodbridge (8-1, 10-5) at 6:15 p.m. in a big South boys’ matchup. The Blue Raiders still have five divisional games left, including a pair against Laurel.

• Smyrna’s boys host St. Georges (12-5) on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. in a nonconference contest that postponed from Jan. 5. The contest is a rematch of last year’s state semifinals.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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