Resurgent Lake Forest boys’ basketball going for seventh win in a row

Senior guard Jaysem Vazquez has been on varsity since he was a freshman. He netted 33 points, including the 1,000th of his career, in Lake’s 59-51 victory over Seaford last week. (Delaware State News file photo)

FELTON — If you’re a high school basketball player, there are a lot of things that can throw you off track.

But, for his Lake Forest High boys’ basketball players, coach Ridge Betts is trying to make sure that frustration isn’t one of them.

“Those 10 guys (on varsity), they care about winning more than they care about their feelings,” said the first-year head coach. “That’s something we talk about every day.

“There’s a lot of emotions in the game. There’s going to be some ups and downs. … But at the end of the day, you need guys who are more worried about winning than worried about their feelings. They hang numbers in that gym, they don’t hang jerseys.”

After a slow start to the season, Betts said it’s a philosophy that’s really taken hold with his players lately.

Following a 1-4 start to the season, the Spartans have reeled off six wins in a row. They take a 7-2 South, 7-4 overall record into today’s 5:45 p.m. Henlopen South showdown at Laurel (7-1 South, 12-2 overall).

It’s just the start of a big week for Lake Forest, which hosts Caesar Rodney on Thursday and Indian River on Friday. Both contests start at 6:15 p.m.

A 2014 Lake grad, the 24-year-old Betts is taking over for veteran coach Mike Starkey, who stepped down in the off-season. Betts was an assistant on Starkey’s staff for the previous four seasons.

He took over a squad that lost three key players after going 15-6 and reaching the DIAA state tournament for the third straight season a year ago.

“There’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, to be honest with you,” said Betts. “I live five minutes away from Lake Forest. This is where I’ll be for a long time.”

Perhaps Lake Forest’s slow start wasn’t surprising. The Spartans played just four games before the holiday break.

The football players in the program also got a late start after Lake’s grid team made the DIAA Division II state tournament.

And the Spartans’ first three losses came by a total of just six points.

“The kids were a little bit frustrated not being able to finish the games out,” said Betts. “

But we knew that there were a few things we could clean up and we’d be able to get things turned around. The kids were frustrated but they were bound and determined to get that thing turned around.”

One of the key players the Spartans did have back was senior guard Jaysem Vazquez, who’s been on varsity since he was a freshman. He netted 33 points, including the 1,000th of his career, in Lake’s 59-51 victory over Seaford last week.

“The basket looks really big to him right now,” said Betts. “He’s shooting the ball extremely well and getting these other guys involved, too. We’re rebounding a lot better than we were early. We’re able to finish these games.”

The Spartans have also gotten a big lift from Tyrone Tolson. The freshman started the season with 20 points in a loss to Seaford and recently tallied 25 in a win over ECHS@DSU.

Betts knows the Spartans have some big games in front of them. But he also knows have his players have a new outlook on their season after stringing some wins together.

“It’s a tough week here,” said Betts. “But we’ve got to stick to who we are.”

Notes

• Cape Henlopen’s girls face one of their biggest tests of the regular season when they host Conrad on Friday at 6:15 p.m. Both teams are 11-3 to start the week and neither has lost to an in-state school.

Conrad won the 2018 state title before falling in the semifinals a year ago.

• Azareya Kilgoe, a former standout at Dover’s Central Middle School, has been a regular contributor as a freshman for Sanford’s defending state champion girls’ team.

• Smyrna’s boys face a big nonconference game at Salesianum on Friday at 7:30 p.m. After having an eight-game winning streak snapped in a heartbreaker with Dover, the Eagles are in the middle of a stretch of five road games in a row.