Perfect season a win away: Undefeated Dover ousts Caravel 68-52 in semifinal, eyes Sanford in title game

Fans celebrate as the Dover Senators defeat Caravel in Thursday night’s state tournament semifinal game at the Bob Carpenter Center. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

NEWARK — If Dover High was going to panic, this would was the time to do it.

Midway through the first quarter of Thursday night’s DIAA boys’ basketball semifinal matchup with Caravel, the Senators owned an eight-point lead.

Seven minutes later, the Senators still hadn’t scored again, the underdog Buccaneers had reeled off 17 straight points and Dover trailed by nine.

But Dover didn’t give up. Instead the Senators dug in.

Second-seeded Dover closed within one by halftime, then took back control in the second half to put away a 68-52 victory over No. 3 Caravel before a sellout crowd of 4,573 at the Carpenter Center.

Eden Davis of the Senators takes a hook shot with Caravel’s Brandon Sengphachanh trying to block.

In staying unbeaten, the Senators (24-0) put themselves in the state championship game for the fifth time in the program’s history. Dover will try to complete its perfect season — as well as give the Senators their first basketball state crown — when it faces top-seeded Sanford (19-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Carpenter Center.

The eight-time state champion Warriors downed No. 5 St. Georges, 67-50, in Thursday’s second semifinal.

Dover shot an enviable 30-of-32 from the foul line for the game, including 13-of-13 in the fourth quarter. The Senators ended up outscoring Caravel, 45-28, in the second half

After getting 23 points from Eden Davis and 21 more from Elijah Allen, Dover’s players said they didn’t panic when their seven-minute scoring drought allowed Caravel (17-6) to go up 22-13 in the second quarter.

Elijah Allen of Dover shoots from under the basket,

“We know we’re a team for a reason,” said Allen. “Coach (Stephen Wilson) called a good timeout and got us back together and we just pulled it through.

“Our team, we keep our cool. We just stick together. And when we stick together, that’s when we finish games out strong. We don’t splinter, we just stick together and unite.”

“We told each other that we trust each other,” said Davis. “We said, we’re going to be good, just pick it up on the defensive end. It was a team effort.”

Davis reeled off eight straight points late in the second quarter before Kylen Thomas’ putback got the Senators within 24-23 at intermission.

Then, in the third quarter, Davis got knocked to the floor while burying a three-pointer from the corner. When he sank the ensuing free throw for a four-point play, Dover held a 29-26 advantage with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

The Senators never trailed again.

Six straight-points from John Lassiter (12 points) pushed Dover’s lead to 42-35 heading into the fourth quarter.

Dover’s Wanya Wise drives through the Caravel defense for an underhand layup.

When the Senators’ advantage grew to double digits in the fourth quarter, all Caravel could do was foul to stop the clock.

That worked out just fine for Dover. Allen sank all 17 of his free throws in the contest — including 10 in the final 3:19 — as the Senators never let the Bucs mount a comeback. That perfect shooting came despite the fact that the junior guard shot only 2-for-15 from the floor.

“I had to just stick it out for my team and just be that leader that I am,” said Allen, who is an 84-percent foul shooter for the season. “We shoot free throws all the time in practice so it’s like it’s a layup every time.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that I closed the game out for my team. They trusted me at the free-throw line so they got me the ball and I finished for them.”

Dover’s defense limited Caravel to just 24.2-percent shooting (16-of-66) for the game. Junior center Jyheim Spencer collected eight of the Senators’ 13 blocked shots.

The Senators also forced 20 turnovers, which resulted in 27 points.

Caravel used only six players in the contest. Smyrna resident Kevin Keister netted a game-high 24 points while playing all 32 minutes.
While the Senators were putting together their perfect regular season, some people wondered how Dover would handle adversity. Including a tough first half in their quarterfinal win over St. Mark’s, the Senators have proven they can weather a storm.

“I didn’t panic at all and neither did the coaches,” said Wilson, who has Dover in the state finals for the second time. “You can lose a game or win a game in the first quarter. But, most likely, it’s going to be 32 minutes.

“Eventually the shots were going to fall. I think that’s what happened. We were able to wear them down and rebound the basketball and we were able to finish.”

To win a state title, though, Dover will probably have to overcome its biggest challenge of the season. Sanford, which is 15-0 against in-state teams this winter, will be the favorite on Saturday.

“We’re back in the (title) game again,” said Wilson. “I’m happy about that. But we have one more job to finish.”

Free throws

Davis was a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line and 4-for-8 from three-point range. … Dover and Caravel were a combined 9-of-43 from beyond the arc. … DIAA will also hold its first Unified state championship basketball game on Saturday. Caesar Rodney is playing Glasgow at 11:30 a.m. at the Carpenter Center.

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