New coach has Polytech going in right direction

Polytech basketball coach Kyle Taylor (Delaware State News file photos)

WOODSIDE — For three days, Kyle Taylor felt sick to his stomach.

His Polytech High girls’ basketball team had gotten the season off to such a great start.

In Taylor’s first game as head coach, the Panthers knocked off Caesar Rodney, 56-42 — the program’s first win over the Riders in at least a decade.

But, almost as soon as it happened, Taylor realized Polytech would have to forfeit the memorable victory. Taylor had inadvertently used a JV/varsity player in too many quarters that night.

“It was just an awful feeling,” said Taylor. “They played so hard for 32 minutes and dug through. It’s a tough way to go. To know the history behind it. …”

“That hurt a lot,” said senior Diamond Hendricks. “Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve never beat CR. So for us to actually win but also lose in the books, that kind of hurt.”

The Panthers’ mission ever since that auspicious start was to make sure that forfeit loss doesn’t haunt them in the end. And the way Polytech has been playing lately, it looks like the Panthers have put that loss behind them.

On Thursday night Polytech upended Sussex Central, 49-40. It was the Golden Knights’ first Henlopen North loss of the season and got the Panthers’ record back to 4-4 overall.

The Panthers’ Courtney Turner

Polytech will be going after its third straight victory today when it plays a 6:15 p.m. North game at Smyrna.

While this is Taylor’s first year coaching both at Polytech and in girls’ basketball, he’s no stranger to coaching the sport. The 32-year-old has spent the last dozen seasons as a men’s college assistant at both Plymouth State and then Kean.

Taylor, who is assisted by Darel Jones as well as Taylor and Rosetta Brickhouse, knew there would be a learning curve for both him and his players.

“They’re playing great basketball right now,” he said. “I don’t get on them a lot because I want them to know there is a lot to learn. They want to learn.

“What’s great about these girls is they’re thinkers. They’re smart. They know the game and they love the game. It showed against Central. When you look at how we played against Dover (a 56-44 loss) versus how we were against Central, it’s night and day — one-on-one basketball vs. team basketball.”

“He definitely knows the game,” senior Courtney Turner said about Taylor. “He likes to motivate us. He gives good speeches.
“What I like about this team is we work well together. We all want to get to the same place.”

The place the Panthers want to reach is the DIAA state tournament. Polytech hasn’t gotten to the tourney since 2014.

A year ago, the Panthers were in position to earn an at-large berth. But they lost their final four games to finish 10-10.
Hendricks said the Panthers definitely learned to never take anything for granted.

“I feel like we definitely should have made the tournament,” she said. “But everything happens for a season. We’re just on to better things this year.”

Polytech has only three seniors on this year’s roster: Turner, Hendricks and T’ijah Jones. Half of the 12-player roster is either sophomores or freshmen.

Junior YaaYaa Afriyie (first team), Turner (second team) and sophomore Jazmin Kellam (honorable mention) were all-Henlopen North selections last winter.

After the rough start this year, the Panthers are hoping their best days are ahead of them.

“We’ve gotten better with communicating,” said Turner. “We believe that we can get to the playoffs.”

“I asked them all what their goal was,” said Taylor. “Their goal was to get to the tournament — every single one of them. I see the potential they have. They’re right, that should be their goal.”

Free throws

The unbeaten St. Thomas More (7-0) girls host Sussex Central today at 4 p.m. The two teams split a pair of regular-season meetings last winter before the Ravens edged the Golden Knights, 42-40, in the second round of the state tournament. … The Dover boys put their 9-0 record on the line in a 6:15 p.m. contest at Cape Henlopen (4-4) today. The Vikings have won four straight games over the Senators. … Sussex Tech (5-3) brings a three-game winning streak into today’s 6:15 p.m. home game against Caesar Rodney (6-2), which hasn’t played a game since Dec. 28.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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