Knights win tight contest over Ravens 53-48

Sussex Central’s Azayah Garrison tries to block a shot by Aniah Patterson of the Ravens. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

MAGNOLIA — The Sussex Central High and St. Thomas More Academy girls’ basketball teams are well-acquainted with one another by now.
The two teams had played six times since 2016 heading into Tuesday’s matchup.

And like many of their prior contests, it was a back-and-forth affair that came down to the wire.

Sussex Central made enough plays down the stretch to earn a 53-48 victory over St. Thomas More. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Golden Knights, who improved to 7-3 overall.

It was the first loss of the year for St. Thomas More (7-1).

The five-point margin of victory was the largest lead of the game for either team.

“You sit there and pull your hair out for four quarters in a game like that,” Sussex Central coach Ron Dukes said. “We tried to keep our girls focused and get the right lineups in there every chance we got.”

Raeonna Stratton’s go-ahead bucket gave the Golden Knights the lead for good at 50-48 with 1:52 left. Sussex Central held the Ravens scoreless for the final 3:10 of the game.

Jessica Simmons of St. Thomas More appears to have four arms as she puts back a rebound close under the basket.

The two teams played three times last year and each won once in the regular season. St. Thomas More won 42-40 in the second round of the DIAA state tournament.

That game was on the minds of Sussex Central’s players headed into Tuesday’s contest.

“I thought it was going to be a tough game,” Stratton said. “I just knew that we had to work hard and get some revenge for last year.”

“Coming into the season many people didn’t believe that we could do a lot,” Stratton added. “This win shows that we come to play and we’re willing to fight.”

St. Thomas More took its final lead of the game with 3:10 left on a pair of free throws by Jessica Simmons.

The Golden Knights were able to tie it at 48-48 when Azayah Garrison attacked in the lane and found enough room to make a floater over her defender. The Golden Knights then recovered a loose ball on the other end and called timeout during the scramble.

St. Thomas More freshman Glennyce James gets past Azayah Garrison of the Golden Knights for a layup in the 1st quarter.

Stratton’s bucket put Sussex Central on top before St. Thomas More missed a pair of free throws. Ambria Stratton netted another basket for the Golden Knights to seal it.

“We took smart shots and made smart passes,” Raeonna Stratton said. “We’re used to playing tight games like that. You just got to work hard with your team.”

“This is huge for us,” Dukes said. “They’re undefeated which is key but more important for us is the state tournament points. They’re going to win a lot of ball games which will give us bonus points, plus we got the win on top of that.”

Raeonna Stratton led Sussex Central with 18 points while Garrison and Brenya Reid also finished in double figures with 10 points. Ambria Stratton added seven points for the Golden Knights.

Aniah Patterson scored 17 points to pace St. Thomas More and Glennyce James netted 16.

Sussex Central out-scored St. Thomas More 17-11 in the final quarter. The 17 points were the Golden Knights’ best output in a single quarter on the day as Dukes felt like they got off to a slow start in their first 4 p.m. game of the year.

“Both teams were sluggish and couldn’t find energy,” Dukes said. “There weren’t a lot of people in the stands so you have to find your own energy. I don’t think either team had it in the first half. We started getting it about two minutes left in the third and it kept us in it.”

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