Riders look to learn from their mistakes

CR’s Jaden Corbett hopes to get deeper in the playoffs this season. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — Jaden Corbett still watches film of the loss to this day.

Caesar Rodney High’s boys’ basketball team was so close to knocking off William Penn to earn a trip to the DIAA state quarterfinals last March.

Instead, the Riders could only wonder what might have been after dropping a crushing 47-43 decision to the Colonials in the tournament’s second round.

“That’s still a heartbreaker,” said Corbett. “Honestly, I want to learn from it — to see how I played individually, to see how the team played. There’s a lot of motivation. We were one step away from The Bob (Carpenter Center). One game.

“I definitely watch that because I want to get there and win at The Bob.”

A journey that the Riders hope will end in the Carpenter Center starts tonight when CR opens the season with a 7 p.m. Henlopen North game at Polytech.

The Riders finished 14-8 a year ago, earning the program’s third-straight state tourney berth.

CR has only a couple returning full-time starters in Corbett and fellow senior Shaft Clark. But the 6-foot-8 Clark, who was a third-team All-Stater last winter, is a pretty good place to start.

While Clark is certainly big enough to give CR a presence down low, he also has the ability to shoot from the outside.

“When you have a guy that’s 6-8 and he can step out on the wing and knock down a three, it’s amazing,” said Corbett. “You have to put your biggest guy on him. If you put a little guy on him, he’ll take them down low. If you put a big guy on him, he’ll take them outside. That’s actually pretty nice.”

Riders’ coach Freeman Williams wants to see Clark be a complete player. He said, really, the big man can handle any position on the floor in a given situation.

“Now I see him where he takes pride defensively, he takes pride with rebounding,” said Williams. “The thing that is exciting is he’s so unselfish. He enjoys watching his teammates score. That’s him, that’s his demeanor.

“It’s been fun to watch his growth and I’m looking forward to watching the growth he’s going to make in the course of the season.”

“I worked hard to get to this point,” said Clark. “I’m going to enjoy this year.”

A year ago, CR got off to a great start. The Riders won their first five games and nine of their first 11.

But when they were hit with some injuries, Williams said CR had to change the way it played. The Riders regrouped at the end, winning three of their last four games before falling to William Penn.

“We were playing a certain style and playing a certain way,” said Williams. “And then we kind of took a hit with our depth a little bit so we had to make some adjustments. To the kids’ credit, we were able to stabilize things and finish the season strong.”

CR should have a pretty good idea what kind of team it has by the end of this month.

The Riders open with four-straight Henlopen North matchups, including hosting rival Dover on Friday at 6:15 p.m. They then go to Appoquinimink on Dec. 19 in a rematch from last year’s first round of the state tournament before facing Salesianum and Hudson Catholic, N.J. at Slam Dunk to the Beach just after Christmas.

Besides Corbett and Clark, seniors Zayquan Eaton and Will Burke are both experienced varsity players.

“I like our defensive intensity,” said Williams. “You always want more but I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the depth that we could potentially have. And this group, they really get along.

“We have a long way to go but it’s a group that enjoys competing against each other and enjoy working together.”

“I think we can go really far,” said Clark. “I think we can do some good things this year. … We’re looking forward to it.”

Of the Riders’ eight losses last season, five came by only six points or less, Corbett knows those tough losses were what stood between CR and having a much better record.

“There were definitely a lot of close games,” he said. “But you have to move on from that.

“This team’s a family,” Corbett added. “We joke off the court but, when we get on the court, it’s time to go at it. We compete with each other every day. We’re ready to go. We’re all set.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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