St. Thomas More girls off to strong start

MAGNOLIA — They know all about the odds being against them.

Trying to play an entire basketball season with only six players on the roster.

That’s the situation St. Thomas More’s girls’ program found itself in two years ago.St. Thomas More girls basketball-Sarah Pool-2015 by .

“It definitely made us a closer as a team,” said Sarah Pool, now a junior for the Ravens. “That was the closest team I’ve ever played on. Everybody had to step up and play.”

“There was one time we played against CR and only had four or five girls,” said senior Kourtnie Orth. “It was quite interesting,”

The Ravens took a lot of pride in being able to survive that season and still play hard.

These days, though, St. Thomas More’s players are taking pride in playing hard but also winning, too.

Bolstered by a strong group of underclassmen, the Ravens are 6-1 heading into today’s 4 p.m. contest at Polytech. Six victories are as many wins as the program has had in a season since 2012 when St. Thomas More finished 11-9.

The Ravens went just 14-44 over the past three years.

The veteran players say it’s fun just to be winning.

“The thing we did have was heart,” said Orth, a Clayton resident. “But now we have heart and talent. Everybody wants to play with each other.”

“I think everybody wants to play, get better and just have fun while they do it,” said Pool, who is from Dover. “Last year, we didn’t win many games. It was more about improving. This year it’s more about winning.”

St. Thomas More’s 11-player roster includes four freshmen and four sophomores. Besides Orth, Johnsenia Brooks is the only other senior.

Sophomore Amaja Mack (13.1 points) and freshman Aniah Patterson (12.3) lead the team in scoring.

Third-year coach Crystal Gordon said the school is trying to be more competitive in athletics. St. Thomas More’s boys’ team is 8-2.

“It’s a balance,” said Gordon. “It did contribute having new kids come into the program. But I think us restoring that athletics really are important here has really made a difference.

“We have that attitude now that it is important for us to compete,” she added. “This school is a great opportunity for kids to come here to be academically successful and now play athletics and be competitive.”

Leaving the Diamond State Conference has also allowed the Magnolia school to determine its entire schedule. The Ravens’ only loss so far came against Hodgson — which is currently 6-1 — in the second game of the season.

St. Thomas More has four Henlopen Conference teams on its schedule, including both Milford and Sussex Central. Its ultimate goal is to make the DIAA state tournament.

The Ravens were once a regular tourney team. But they haven’t reached the tournament since 2011 when they made at least their third straight appearance.

“This year we’re just trying to get our name out there and get St. Thomas More known in the state of Delaware really,” said Pool.

“It’s very hard when you come from a small school because you don’t get as much respect,” said Orth. “When we get to the state tournament, it’s a big accomplishment for all of us. We’re making some noise, we’re getting some people out there to know who we are — it’s not just, ‘Who’s that little school in Magnolia?’”

It’s a far cry from a couple years ago.

Back then one of the biggest goals was just trying to get through another game without having one of their few players foul out.

“There’s some girls who would think, ‘Oh, we’re not going to win this because there’s only five of us,’” said Orth. “Now there’s always that confidence that, ‘Hey, we’re going to go in here and we’re going to do what we came here to do.’”

Free throws

  • Dover High and St. Thomas More boys’ basketball teams have both picked up forfeit wins from games they lost early in the season. Both came from opponents using ineligible players. The Senators’ forfeit came from Friendship Collegiate Academy (DC), which they lost to at Slam Dunk to the Beach. The Ravens’ forfeit came from a tough season-opening loss to Hodgson, which is now 0-6 after forfeiting its first five games.
  • Smyrna hosts Dover in a Henlopen North boys’ showdown on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. The two teams have split their last four meetings. And none of the last six Dover-Smyrna games have been decided by more than six points.
  • Caesar Rodney High’s girls (7-3) played St. Elizabeth twice in their first eight games. And while the Riders lost both contests, they went from losing by 17 points to six points in the Dec. 29th rematch with the Vikings.
  • On Jan. 23, St. Thomas More is slated to play a Newark Tech program that has won three straight Group II boys’ state title in New Jersey. The contest is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Pemberton Township (N.J.) High.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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