Last-second shot puts Cape in North title game

 

CAMDEN — As soon as teammate Sh’Kai Chandler started to drive and the defense collapsed on him, Ian Robertson had a pretty good feeling.

“We kind of made eye contact,” Robertson explained. “As soon as he did that, I knew it was game over.”

Chandler fired the ball inside to Robertson, who was open under the basket. The big forward then just had to lay in a shot with about two seconds left to give Cape Henlopen High a dramatic 50-48 victory over Caesar Rodney in their Henlopen Conference Northern Division boys’ basketball showdown on Monday night.

The hard-earned win means that the Vikings (18-2 overall) finish tied with Smyrna for the North title. Both teams went 11-1 in division games and split their two meetings.

Cape and the Eagles will play a tiebreaker for the North crown — on either Wednesday or Thursday — with the champion then advancing to the Henlopen Conference championship game. The Henlopen title game is tentatively slated for Friday night at Dover.

But the Riders (6-6, 12-7) almost made that playoff game unnecessary.

After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, CR came back to tie the score four times in the last two quarters. The final deadlock came at 48-48 when senior Timothy Spence buried a three-pointer with just 29 seconds remaining.

That set the stage for the Vikings’ game-winning shot. After Robertson’s basket, the Riders weren’t able to inbound the ball before the final horn sounded.

Robertson finished with a game-high 24 points while Chandler added 10.

“CR, I don’t think people realize what kind of rival they are with us in basketball,” said Cape coach Stephen Re. “It’s probably because we’ve done so much with them in the offseason. We run into them in camps, we run into them in summer league. Coach Freeman (Williams) is a friend of mine.

“We’ve been battling. It’s always like this. … We just couldn’t make shots tonight. We missed a lot of really good looks.”

The Vikings sank only 6-of-19 free throws.

A year ago, Cape knocked off a higher-seeded CR team in the first round of the DIAA state tournament.

“They’re always coming for us,” said Robertson. “We play each other a lot in the summertime. This is like my 10th time playing them in high school.”

The Cape-Smyrna rematch figures to be pretty interesting.

The Eagles won, 64-55, in the season opener on Dec. 1 with the Vikings getting their revenge, 74-51, on Jan. 12. Defending state champion Smyrna had won 25 straight games against Delaware schools before that loss.

“It’s only right that we have to go through them,” Robertson said about facing the Eagles again. “They won the state title. So, bring it on — round three. I’d rather have to beat them than have it be decided on some flukey thing and not feel like we earned it.

“Someone’s going to have to earn it.”

“I like the way it’s set up,” Re said about the playoff format. “Let’s play one more time and see what happens.”

The Riders hope they get to play some more basketball, too. CR expects to earn an at-large state tournament berth when the bracket is announced on Friday afternoon.

Shaft Clark scored 16 points to pace the Riders while Davione Robinson had 13. CR hit only 4-of-10 foul shots.

Williams hopes playing in a big game, like they did on Monday, will be good for his players.

“The kids played hard,” said Williams. “I’m really proud of our effort. I don’t feel like we lost, I feel like we ran out of time.

“We talk about it all season — either we win or we learn. We’re at a stretch now where guys are really starting to listen and really starting to believe in what we’re talking about.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

 

 

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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