Unbeaten CR girls face test vs. North rival Central tonight

Bill Victory

CAMDEN — Bill Victory hasn’t coached basketball this long without trying some new ideas now and then.

So this year the veteran Caesar Rodney High girls’ coach thought he’d use something different to break up the routine of practice.

The Riders have a sign in their gym, listing the best eight upstate squads in the state, numbered one through eight.

At the start of practice, one of CR’s captains rolls an eight-sided dice.

Whatever number comes up, that’s the team the Riders work on beating that day.

“They’ve bought into that,” said Victory. “I ask them at the end, ‘Did we practice well enough today to beat Ursuline?’”

While the Riders certainly haven’t played all the state’s top teams, they’ve played well enough to beat everybody on their schedule.

CR is 9-0 right now, including four victories against New Castle County schools.

Tonight, though, the Riders will be focused on trying to stay unbeaten in the Henlopen Conference when they host Northern Division rival Sussex Central (7-1 overall) at 7:15 p.m. Both teams are 4-0 in the North.

Over the last season and a half, CR has won 21 of its last 24 games. But two of those three losses have come against the Golden Knights.

That includes a decisive 67-42 setback to Central in a playoff game to decide last year’s North title.

“(Central coach) Ron Dukes does a great job with the kids that he has,” said Victory. “I’ve learned my lesson. I owe him a few.”

Still, Victory feels pretty good about the way the Riders’ season has gone so far.

After finishing 17-6 and reaching the DIAA state quarterfinals a year ago, CR has picked up where it left off. The Riders are still fairly young with Alissa Haith, a first-team all-North pick last winter, leading a group of four seniors.

Haith is averaging a team-best 13.4 points per game followed by junior guards Brionna Brooks (12.6) and Alexis Reid (10.0). Six different players have scored in double figures in games.

“I feel like everybody’s playing as a team,” said Brooks. “No one’s being selfish, no one’s trying to be the hero. We’re all just playing as a unit.”

Maybe Victory should have known things were going the Riders’ way when sophomore Kylie Kornegay-Lucas unexpectedly landed in the program in the fall.
A member of an Air Force family, Kornegay-Lucas transferred from California. A year ago, she was on the freshman team at San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty, whose varsity was ranked ninth in the country.

The 5-foot-8 Kornegay-Lucas has been a consistent scorer for CR with a 7.9-points average as well as being a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything.

“I like my teammates, the people, they’re really nice,” said Kornegay-Lucas, who previously also lived in North Carolina. “You kind of have to find out where you fit in but, once you do, it’s good.”

“I didn’t know we were getting anybody new until one day it was like, ‘Oh, we have a new girl,’” said Brooks. “She’s a hustle player and that’s always a good thing. She fit in well. It feels like she’s been here longer than she has.”

That’s one of the things Victory likes about this group of players — they all seem to get along. And they seem intent on getting better.

Of course, that’s where the sign, and practicing to face different top-notch programs, comes in.

“At first I was like, ‘Is that really going to make a difference?’” said Brooks. “But now that we do it, we keep it in our mind to practice the best that we can every day.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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