Senators aim to be back next year’s championship game

Dover’s Elijah Allen celebrates his shot after being fouled in the fourth quarter during the DIAA boys’ basketball championship in Newark on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

NEWARK — The Dover High boys’ basketball team hung around to watch the celebration.

The Senators had just suffered a heartbreaking 48-45 loss to Sanford in the DIAA boys’ basketball state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Carpenter Center.

Dover’s players remained on the court, heads buried in jerseys to help dry the tears. Each player received a runner-up medal before the coaches were given the second-place trophy.

Sanford then grabbed the championship trophy after its victory where the Warriors scored the final four points of the game in the last 29 seconds. That’s when Dover headed to the locker room, players, coaches and parents attempting to console one another.

The Senators were sure of one thing — they’ll be back.

There’s only one senior in the starting lineup. Dover’s three leading scorers, on Saturday, Elijah Allen (19 points), Eden Davis (11 points) and Jyheim Spencer (8 points), are all juniors.

“We’ll bottle this up and use it as fuel over the summer in our workouts and on our circuits,” Allen said. “We’ll just grind and try to finish strong so next year we can finish.”

DIAA director Thomas Neubauer gives Dover High school coach Stephen Wilson a hug and the second place trophy on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s going to be a big part of our work this summer,” Davis said. “We’re going to come back ready.”

While the Senators were watching Sanford celebrate, Allen noticed Dover coach Stephen Wilson tearing up. He walked to the end of the bench and embraced his coach.

It was again, oh, so close for Dover. The Senators were attempting to win their first boys’ basketball state title in program history.

They dropped to 0-5 in championship games including defeats to Wilmington in 1972, Brandywine in 1977, Glasgow in 2003 and Sanford in 2010.

“I’m sure they’ll remember this and it will fester in their bodies,” Wilson said. “I’m sure they’ll come back ready to go. I’m sure about that. I probably won’t have to motivate them. We needed to think about this. We needed to watch them celebrate.”

And if Dover is able to make it back to the championship game, there’s quite a good chance the Senators could see this same Sanford team.

The Warriors, who won their ninth state title, only graduate one senior.

Sanford coach Stan Waterman said a rematch next year is a good possibility.

“Dover is a very good team,” Waterman said. “They’re young and most of their guys will be back next year. We have most of our team returning. I look for both of those teams to be battling it out next year right at the top.”

The two teams could meet again even sooner than the title game.

The schedule for Slam Dunk to the Beach, the annual invitational held at Cape Henlopen High in late December, has not been announced yet. But it would be no surprise if the organizers scheduled Dover-Sanford as the marquee Delaware matchup.

Dover High School students cheer in the fourth quarter. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“That will be exciting,” Waterman said. “It would be a great game for the state of Delaware.”

Dover was also vying to be the first undefeated state champion since St. Mark’s in 1995.

Instead the Senators had to settle for a 24-1 record. A mark they still will take pride in despite Saturday’s defeat.

“We won 24 games straight,” Allen said. “The record speaks for itself. We didn’t finish on top. But we can always say we won 24 games.”

“They deserve all the accolades that they’re going to get,” Wilson said. “They deserve to be recognized as good student-athletes because they do it on the court and in the classroom as well. I have no complaints. I love my team, I love my school and we’ll be back.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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