High school basketball: Lake Forest girls more confident in Davis’ second year

Grace Aguilar. Delaware State News file photos.

FELTON — This is basically the same girls’ basketball team that Lake Forest High put on the court last winter.

But coach Aaliyah Davis said there’s a huge difference in those players’ attitudes once they get on the floor.

“We’re noticing that we can play with teams — we’re just as good as teams,” she said. “If we work hard, we can compete this year.”

Aaliyah Davis

The proof of that new sense of fearlessness is in the Spartans’ record. After going 8-12 a year ago, Lake Forest is 14-2 and riding a seven-game winning streak.

Sitting second in the Henlopen South lead at 11-1 in the division, the Spartans will challenge themselves again when they host North-leading Cape Henlopen (12-3) today at 5 p.m.

Lake Forest’s transformation didn’t happen overnight, of course. And the fact that it had just one senior last year compared to five this season makes a difference.

Clearly, the Spartans also had to make a big transition last winter in Davis’ first season as a head coach. The 24-year-old played at both Milford and Cape Henlopen in high school before finishing her career at Delaware State in college.

As much as anything, Davis said last season was about mapping out a foundation for the program.

Jada Gourdine

“It took a lot of film work, a lot of paying attention in practice, them asking questions and wanting to try new things,” she said.
“There was also putting them in situations where they were uncomfortable to get them where they could get comfortable.

“I had to get them to actually trust it, so they knew it wouldn’t fail them,” she said about her system.

With seniors like Grace Aguilar and Jada Gourdine leading the way, Lake Forest’s only losses have come against Tatnall and unbeaten Woodbridge. Aguilar was a second-team all-Henlopen South pick last season while Gourdine made honorable mention.

The Spartans are well on their way to getting back to the DIAA state tournament for the first time in two years. They also still have a shot at winning the Henlopen South title.

Woodbridge (11-0) leads the division with the two teams playing for the second time on Feb. 12 in Felton.

Davis, though, also knows Lake Forest will have to play better than it did on Jan. 8 when it fell to Blue Raiders, 56-35, in Bridgeville. The Spartans fell behind, 20-5, in the first quarter of that contest.

“We kind of defeated ourselves the first time we played them,” said Davis. “It was nerves and them not understanding the stage that they were on. It was new to them. They never had to play in a setting like that.

“They’ll be a little more comfortable this time.”

At the same time, being a head coach in this situation is new for Davis, too.

It was only a few years ago that the 2012 Cape Henlopen grad was playing in some big Henlopen Conference games herself.

Even though she’s young, however, Davis said she never felt like she had to prove herself to the coaches in the league.

“The coaches are welcoming,” she said. “If anything, I learned a lot off of them over the years with me playing against them. They’re helpful. It’s a good group of coaches right now.

“I kind of go into it just as if I’m playing a game. You have some nerves in the beginning, but then, as soon as you tip the ball, it kind of goes away.”

Free throws

• Between the last game it played on Jan. 29 and its final scheduled game on Feb. 19, Dover High’s unbeaten boys’ squad (16-0) will play only five games in the last three weeks of the regular season. The Senators host Polytech on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a remake of a contest snowed out on Friday.

• After girls’ North frontrunners Cape Henlopen (8-2) and Sussex Central (8-3) both lost division games last week, the Vikings still control their own destiny. Cape has to play North games against Sussex Tech on Friday and Dover on Feb. 12.

• With the Milford and Lake Forest boys both tied for the Henlopen South lead at 11-1, the division could be decided when the two squads meet on Thursday in Felton at 6:15 p.m. The Buccaneers won the first meeting, 65-46.

• The Sussex Tech boys (11-6) have won six of their last seven games. Their last three games should all be pretty interesting: against Cape Henlopen, Caesar Rodney and Salesianum.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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