Senator boys aiming high again: Dover returns bulk of 24-1 state finals team

DOVER — Nobody can blame Eden Davis for missing the shot.

Elijah Allen hugs Dover teammate Eden Davis (3) following the Senators’ heartbreaking state final loss to Sanford last March. Both players return to a loaded Dover squad that went 24-1 last season. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

It was at the buzzer of a state championship game. He had a couple Sanford defenders pressuring him and just enough time for him to catch and shoot the ball.

But Davis can still see that shot, which bounced harmlessly off the rim and sealed Dover High’s 48-45 loss to the Warriors in the DIAA boys’ basketball state finals last March.

“I think about it all the time,” the senior guard said at practice on Tuesday. “It was a tough shot but I felt like, if I jumped a little bit higher. I could have made it. But everything happens for a reason.”

The Senators can’t change the past, of course. They can try to grab hold of the opportunity that still sits in front of them, though.
A year after going 24-1 and missing the program’s first state crown by just three points, there’s a lot expected of Dover.

The Senators who open the season today by hosting Henlopen North rival Sussex Central at 7 p.m. return most of their roster. That group is led by seniors Davis and Elijah Allen, who were both first-team All-Staters a season ago.

Despite all the buzz in the community about this squad, however, veteran coach Stephen Wilson knows it’s never as easy as just picking up where they left off.

“I’ve been trying to keep their heads high but also be realistic about things,” he said. “We don’t talk too much about last year. Yesterday we talked about it for the last time. Now we’re on to this year.

“We don’t talk too much about last year. Yesterday we talked about it for the last time. Now we’re on to this year,” said Senators coach Stephen Wilson.

“We know a lot of people are going to focus on those two,” Wilson said about Allen and Davis. “What we’re trying to do is make sure they have to focus on everybody on the court. We’ve made some adjustments in our offense. Some guys have gotten a little better at things they weren’t very good at last year. Everybody was eligible that we had planned on.

“We tell these kids, they don’t have to be perfect — just be good when they need to be good. I know the community has expectations of us and we have our own expectations. Our guys are just going to take one game at a time.”

Davis — who has committed to Division I Texas A&M-Corpus Christi — and Allen are part of a six-player senior class that had a lot to do with the Senators winning the Henlopen Conference title along with their 20-0 regular season last winter.

Jy’Heim Spencer, a 6-foot-8 forward, was a third-team All-State pick last season. Wanya Wise, Brendon Parker (6-foot-6) and Shamir Nelson (6-foot-4) are also experienced players.

There’s nothing like a tough loss in the state championship game to provide some off-season fuel.

Eden Davis. Delaware State News file photo

“Over the summer, it gave me more motivation, a chip on our shoulders when we played AAU or in our summer league,” said Allen. “It gave us more motivation to just win and go harder — go 120 instead of 110.

“There’s a couple of plays we wish we could take back (from the finals) — plays I wish could take back myself. But everything happens for a reason.”

Along with the seniors, Dover also has a group of youngsters — three sophomores and a pair of freshmen — that Wilson hopes will contribute. So far he likes what he’s seen from them in preseason scrimmages.

“We’ve got to be able to incorporate our younger guys with the older guys,” said Wilson. “They’re going to be valuable coming off the bench. Last year we had a very good bench.”

“We’ve got the veteran leaders from last year,” said Allen. “So we know what it takes to get there. We’re hoping the younger guys can take us over the hump.”

Elijah Allen. Delaware State News file photo

Of course, the older players also know the highs and lows of having a great season but just falling short at the end.

Just watching highlights from the state finals was an emotional experience for the Senators on Monday. They know it’s time to move on.
“We don’t try to dwell on the past,” said Davis. “We take it one game at a time.

“We know we’ve got to put in the work. We motivate each other. We know there’s going to be a target on our backs so we’ve just got to go hard each game. Our goal is to get two-percent better each day.”

Free throws

Nine Henlopen Conference boys’ basketball teams will be in action tonight as the winter sports season officially gets started. … Long-time girls’ basketball assistant Frank Victory will make his debut as Caesar Rodney’s boys’ head coach when the Riders host Sussex Tech at 6:15 p.m. … Ridge Betts is the new head coach at Lake Forest. The Spartans don’t open until next Tuesday when they host Seaford at 6 p.m. … First-year coach Shameik Thompson and his Cape Henlopen squad start by hosting Polytech on Friday at 6:15 p.m.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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