Senators, Allen rally to shock Pa.’s O’Hara

WILMINGTON — For three quarters, it looked like Dover High’s boys’ basketball team was just going to have to chalk this one up to experience.

It’s not that the Senators were playing poorly.

Philadelphia’s Cardinal O’Hara, though, is considered one of the top teams in Pennsylvania this year. And the Lions did hold a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter on Saturday night.

But that was before the Senators decided they wanted a real victory, not just a morale one.

Outscoring O’Hara by 20 over the final eight minutes, Dover stormed back for a memorable 86-82 win over the Lions at the 76ers Field House.

It was another special night for the Senators’ senior guard Elijah Allen, too, as he poured in 44 points to better the career high of 40 he set a couple weeks ago.

After a matchup that was played with the intensity of a state tournament showdown, Dover’s players and coaches boisterously celebrated in the locker room like they had just accomplished something pretty big.

“Coach (Stephen Wilson), he never let up, he never let up on us,” Allen said above the din of the celebration. “He said, ‘We’re not out of this game.’ The coaches gave us the game plan and we went out and got it done. We executed on the defensive end, that was it.

“It means a lot because that team right there, that’s a team like us — they’re scrappy, they don’t give up at the end. They kept fighting and fighting. It’s big for our program and big for our city winning that game. … coming back from the deficit we were at.”

“I just had to figure out the right defense to put them in,” said Wilson. “I just told them to play ball after that. I think this was a tournament-type atmosphere where the odds were against us.

“It wasn’t necessarily trying to be cute, we were just trying to win the basketball game — whatever we had to do.”

Dover (11-1) trailed 68-52 after three quarters and then managed to out-score O’Hara (12-3) by a remarkable 34-14 margin the fourth period.

The Senators took their first lead since the first quarter with just 1:40 left when Wanya Wise’s up-and-under drive gave them a 75-74 advantage.

After the Lions took back a one-point lead, Allen, delivered the shot of the night. The senior buried a deep three-pointer from along the sidelines as he was knocked to the ground.

Allen then sank the ensuing free throw for a four-point play that suddenly gave Dover a 79-76 lead with 1:24 remaining.

O’Hara twice cut the Senators’ advantage to just one point after that. The last time came on a three with only 13.8 seconds on the clock.

Center Jy’Heim Spencer, though, hit a foul shot with 13.2 left before junior Caesar Gilbert came up with a steal as Dover was double-teaming the Lions’ ball handler near midcourt. Gilbert got the ball ahead to Wise, who was fouled as he drove to the basket.

Wise sank both foul shots with 5.3 seconds remaining to give the Senators their 86-82 lead and that was that.

The fact that Dover executed in the final minute to win a close, big game wasn’t lost on the Senators. They had, of course, lost the state finals to Sanford last March under similar conditions.

Dover sank six of seven free throws in the final 1:24.

“When we played Sanford last year, we were up and all of a sudden they came back and we lost,” said the 6-foot-8 Spencer, who collected 14 points along with a number of rebounds and blocked shots. “Our coach told us, we’ve got back to that three minutes and 30 seconds (when they led Sanford). He told us we’ve just got to hold on and push through it. And our bench came in and helped us.”

“It did feel like a big game,” said Allen. “Our Coach put these games on our schedule to get us ready for a playoff run if we get there.

“Last year we slipped up on a couple plays (against Sanford). We just had to pick it up and play defense. Last year we lost with like a minute left. Free throws were key. We were on them today.”

Big scoring games are nothing new for Allen, who netted 40 in a win over Caesar Rodney on Jan. 7. But topping that with 44 against a highly-regarded program was pretty special.

After netting just three third-quarter points, Allen poured in 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. He sank six three-pointers in the game.

“At practice, we put up a lot of shots,” said Allen. “Coach got me ready for times like this. I’ve just got to be ready when my number is called and it my number that was called today. I picked it up for my team.”