High school basketball notes: New players but same goal as Ravens eye more success

Cheston Boyd, St. Thomas More head coach (Delaware State News file photos)

Respect is never going to come easily for his St. Thomas More boys’ basketball program, says coach Cheston Boyd.

Even with the Ravens reaching the DIAA state quarterfinals two seasons ago and then the semis last year, he doesn’t think they were ever viewed as more than a small collection of good players.

So with most of those top players gone now, Boyd knows people think St. Thomas More will go back to being an afterthought.

“I don’t think we ever received credit for being a program,” he said. “I think everybody (just) tried to give us credit for players.

“For me, I knew that I would have to coach a little harder with a bunch of young guys coming and new guys coming in. But, for me, it’s important that people see it’s a program. No matter what pieces are there, we’re going to have a team to compete. That’s all I ask for.”

True, the Ravens are only 5-6 right now. But St. Thomas More has played some tough regional programs and has some winnable games in front of them.

St. Thomas More’s Alvin West

The Ravens host Delaware Public Safety & Security (1-9) today at 6 p.m, in only their third home game of the season.

Boyd points out that, in four of its losses, St. Thomas More was either tied or led at halftime. The Ravens were up 29-26 at halftime against highly-regarded St. Georges before losing by 21 on Dec. 16.

Boyd thinks St. Thomas More has to figure out how to play consistent offense for 32 minutes.

“We’ve got the pieces there, it’s just a question of putting it together,” he said. “These guys don’t quite yet have the maturity. But they’re getting it with every single game.

“The goal is just to get the opportunity to play in the state tournament.”

St. Thomas More has four seniors but also five freshmen on its 14-player roster. Senior Alvin West is the team’s leading scorer at 18 points a game but much of the rest of the Ravens’ scoring is coming from underclassmen.

Sometimes St. Thomas More hits a dry spell offensively — like it did in a 53-50 overtime loss at Penn Wood, Pa. on Saturday. The Ravens were missing a pair of starters in the contest.

“We had a stretch in the third quarter where we couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” said Boyd. “Defensively, we played really well.

“We’ve got to get used to running our offense when the pressure comes. They kind of forget everything they learned. We’ve got to focus on being efficient enough to get baskets when we need them.”

Just a year ago, St. Thomas More was only a one-point loss away from making the school’s first appearance in the state championship game.

So, even with this year’s ups and downs, Boyd said he and his players haven’t given up hope that they can still accomplish some good things this season.

“For a youg group like this — and a group of guys who never played together — if you get to the tournament, you see how it pans out,” he said. “We want to get there and get them that playoff experience. Grabbing a win or two would be a bonus.

“The young guys can get that hunger — ‘OK, this is what it’s like. Next time, we don’t want to be one and done or two games and done.’”

Zubi back on the court

Zubi Nwankwo, the towering center who helped Smyrna win its first DIAA boys’ basketball state title last winter, is back on the court.

The 7-foot-1 senior is now playing for Walnut Hills High near Cincinnati, Ohio. He had to sit out earlier in the season while waiting to become eligible.

In a recent win over West Clermont, Nwankwo has four points, four assists, 11 rebounds, a blocked shot and generally made things more difficult around the basket for West Clermont.

“You throw a seven-footer in there, you’re going to change the game a little bit,” West Clermont coach Craig Mazzaro told Cininnati.com. “He dominated in there.”

Local basketball fans may remember that Smyrna actually had two seven-footers transfer in last school year. The other, Abba Lawal, scored six points for the Eagles in their season opener before transferring back to Walnut Hills in December.

Well, Lawal now plays for Withrow High, another Cincinnati-area school. He’s listed as a 6-foot-11, 215-pounder.

Free throws

• Rivals Caesar Rodney and Dover square off again tonight. The boys’ game is at CR at 6:15 p.m. with the girls playing at Dover at 6:45 p.m.

The Rider boys have won the last three meetings in the series. Dover is currently stuck in a five-game losing streak while CR has won three in a row.

• Radio station 105.9-FM is broadcasting two boys’ games this week: Indian River at Cape Henlopen on Thursday evening and Caesar Rodney at Lake Forest on Friday.

• The CR girls will face Washington, D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson on Saturday at 2:20 p.m. at Riverdale Baptist.

• Currently 10-2 with a four-game winning streak, Woodbridge’s girls play six of their last eight regular-season games at home.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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