High school basketball notebook: Young Panther girls team makes big strides

Yaa Afriyie (right) of Polytech (Delaware State News file photos)

Courtney Turner (12) of Polytech

WOODSIDE — Dayra Diamond likes to have her defense put a lot of pressure on the opposition.

But that’s easier said than done when you don’t much depth.

There were a lot of nights last winter when Diamond’s Polytech High girls’ basketball lineup didn’t go far beyond the starting five.

“We did have great defenders but they got tired come the third quarter,” said Diamond. “We didn’t have that set of fresh legs to substitute when we needed to.”

The Panthers, though, have a lot more depth this season and the results are pretty clear.

Polytech girls’ basketball coach Dayra Diamond

Polytech (3-2 Henlopen North, 6-2 overall) takes a six-game winning streak into today’s home nonconference matchup with Delcastle (5-4). Tipoff is slated for 6:15 p.m.

A victory would give Polytech as many victories as it had all last year in a 7-13 campaign. And that came after the Panthers were a combined 4-36 over the two previous seasons.

Polytech is still young this year, with just one senior in Kaylee Williams. The Panthers’ roster includes three sophomores and three freshmen.

Diamond, however, likes the attitude her players bring to the court.

“When you come from where you barely have six (players) to have a team where you have more than eight, you’re not so much dependent on one person to do most of the scoring,” said Diamond. “We’re able to pick each other up and we have others who are able to step up when others are down. It’s just a good thing.

“Definitely, we want to keep the train rolling. … They just enjoy winning. They’re just having fun right now.”

Kaylee Williams of Polytech (left)

Sophomore YaaYaa Afriyie, an honorable mention All-Henlopen North pick as a freshman, is Polytech’s leading scorer at about 15 points a game. Junior center Courtney Turner is averaging 10 points a game.

The Panthers are also getting contributions from new players like freshman forward Jazmin Kellam. Kellam and fellow freshman Jayla Scott-Cottman were both members of a talented Postlethwait Middle School squad that lost only two games over the last two seasons.

“It’s fun to play with older teams,” said Kellam, whose father, Aaron, was a standout athlete at Laurel High. “There’s some more adjusting to do. I get down on myself easily.

“We’re just hyping each other up as the games go on. We try to keep our spirits up and have confidence in each other. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Panthers play a 4 p.m. game at Caesar Rodney on Friday. They lost to the Riders by 24 points in their season opener.

But Polytech hasn’t lost since falling to Cape Henlopen on Dec. 12. Ultimately, the Panthers would like to earn a berth in the DIAA state tournament — something the program hasn’t done since 2014.

For now, though, Kellam said she and her teammates will settle for trying to work their way back up.

“We’re definitely the underdog,” said Kellam. “When you beat other teams, it feels really good. The goal is to do better than the last year.”

“They’re a nice bunch,” Diamond said about her players. “They like to learn and they’re very athletic. I’m just trying to keep that up. “

Notes

• Sussex Tech’s girls’ 46-32 victory over Caesar Rodney last Wednesday snapped at least an 18-game, nine-year losing streak for the Ravens against the Riders.

The win also left unbeaten Sussex Tech (5-0 North, 8-0 overall) alone in first place in the Henlopen North. Sussex Tech plays at CR on Feb. 13.

• Likewise, on the boys’ side, Cape Henlopen’s 74-51 victory over Smyrna on Friday ended the defending state champion’s 25-game winning streak against Delaware schools. It also left the Vikings and Eagles both 8-2 atop the Henlopen North with a 1-1 record against each other.

• Smyrna’s boys’ home game against Dover on Thursday can be heard on WDEL (1150-AM/101.7-FM). Tipoff is slated for 7:15 p.m.

• Woodbridge’s girls lead the Henlopen South win a record of 6-0 (7-2 overall). The Blue Raiders play a big South contest on Thursday when they host Delmar (5-1n South) at 5:45 p.m.

• At 4-0 in the South (5-1 overall), Woodbridge’s boys have won 22 straight South games.

• Radio 105.9-FM is slated to carry Friday’s Sussex Central at Cape Henlopen boys’ game at 6 p.m.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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