on Late Dover Run
Photos (from top): SC forward Jamil Young maneuvers for room against Dover's Shereik Cousins, Frank Roach pushes the ball against Dover's Tyrell Moses, and SC's Larry Bailey dribbles past Dover's Collins Evans.
NEWARK -- At some point, it figured that all of the adversity the Sussex Central High School boys' basketball team had faced this season would catch up to it.
But as it turned out in the Golden Knights' 51-49 semifinal loss in the 2003 Delaware boys' state basketball tournament, a little bit of prosperity would be harder to deal with.
The Knights saw a four-point lead with 49.7 seconds remaining slip away on Friday, March 7, 2003, at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center.
The heart-breaking loss ended a remarkable season in which the Knights overcame the loss of two head coaches and standout forward Andrew Weatherly to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1988.
And but for a bit of hesitation at the end of the game, after Central had fallen behind 51-49, the Knights may still be playing for a championship.
After Dover erased the Knights' 49-45 advantage on six straight free throws, Central inbounded the ball from Dover's end with 10.5 seconds left in the game.
The Knights quickly worked the ball upcourt and into the hands of senior forward Jamil Young, who broke free into the lane, but couldn't decide whether to shoot or pass to a wide-open Larry Bailey underneath.
In that moment's indecision, the ball floated between the basket and Bailey's hands for a turnover with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Dover then inbounded the ball and ended the Knights' season with a 22-4 record.
Dover, at 22-3, will face Glasgow in the state championship game on Sunday, March 9, at 4 p.m. in the Carpenter Center. Glasgow ended the hopes of both Sussex County entrants in the Final Four with a 66-58 victory over Sussex Tech in the other semifinal Friday night.
Despite the heart-wrenching ending, the Knights could take comfort in the fact that they went farther than any Central team has gone since 1988 -- the last time the Central program reached the state finals -- and farther than the 2001 Henlopen Conference championship team went in a year in which everything went so smoothly.
This season was anything but smooth for the Knights.
Since just before pre-season, when they lost their head coach, to the middle of the season, when they lost another head coach, to the end of the season, when they had to play the last four games without a key interior player, the Knights relied on their depth, their heart and their courage to overcome the adversity.
And while that wasn't enough against the Senators on Friday night, it was enough to give Tim Slade, the former SC head coach turned assistant principal turned volunteer assistant turned head coach again, nothing but good things to say about his team.
"We had a great season with all the stuff we went through as a team," said Slade. "I mean, I'm still proud of my guys. I wish the best for all of them, especially my seniors, who I won't be able to coach again, but hopefully my underclassmen will come back and we'll be right back here next year. "
After taking a 23-22 halftime lead, the Knights appeared to be on the verge of a championship berth as they started to create some breathing room between themselves and the Senators.
Scoring the first five points of the second half on a free throw by Frank Harris and layups by Young and forward A.J. Neal -- the two Woodbridge transfers who added so much depth to the Central roster -- the Knights took a 28-22 lead with 5:40 left in the third period.
Dover closed the gap to 28-26 barely a minute later, but the Knights went on another spurt on a Roach foul shot and layups by Young and forward Josh Ward for a 33-26 advantage with 2:54 to go in the quarter.
The Knights held that seven-point edge going into the final quarter when sophomore point guard Kyle White rebounded his own miss and threw up a layup that rolled around the rim before falling through as time expired.
Ahead 38-31 entering the fourth quarter, Central increased its advantage to 40-31 on a jumper by White, who finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
Dover then connected on a three-pointer by guard Tyrell Moses to pull within 40-34, but Central forward Frank Harris canned a jumper for a 42-34 Central lead with 6:27 left.
With Central up 43-36 on a foul shot by Young with 5:08 remaining, the game started to unravel for the Knights.
Dover, which has made a habit of coming back on opponents, scored 7 of the game's next 10 points to pull within 45-43 with 1:57 left on a three-pointer by Michael Wright.
The Knights, working out of their spread offense, got a little breathing room when Young hit a layup for a 47-43 lead with 1:57 to go, but Dover would finish the game off by scoring 8 of the last 10 points as the Knights turned the ball over three times in that span.
Dover finally took only its second lead on a pair of free throws by Collins Evans with 10.8 seconds left. Evans got to the line after Tyrone Hurst rebounded a miss by Wright and was fouled by Ward.
The Knights scrapped to their 23-22 halftime lead with some timely three-pointers to offset Dover's tenacious press, which became more effective late in the half after the Knights had taken a 13-6 lead.
Central built that lead on back-to-back three-pointers by Frank Harris and Larry Bailey to end the first period with a 13-10 advantage.
Dover's press then began to intensify and forced most of the Knights' 14 first half turnovers in the second period.
By the half's end, a steal and fast break layup by Everette Stevens had given Dover a 22-21 lead, but Central responded quickly with a jumper by Jamil Young to end the half up by one.
For the game, Young led the Knights in scoring with 14 points. No other Knight was in double figures, as Harris, Roach and Ward followed Young and White with 8, 7 and 6 points, respectively.
Moses led all scorers with 21 points for Dover.
DOVER (50) -- Collins Evans 1-3, 8-10, 10; Shereik Cousins 1-3, 0-0, 2; Everette Stevens 4-5, 1-1, 9; Tyrell Moses 7-15, 5-9, 21; Michael Wright 2-15, 2-4, 7; Lamar Hurst 0-0, 0-0, 0; Tyrone Hurst 0-0, 2-2, 2; Jermaine Miller 0-0, 0-0, 0. TOTALS 15-41, 18-26, 51.
SUSSEX CENTRAL (65) -- Jamil Young 5-11, 4-8, 14; Frank Harris 3-8, 1-2, 8; Layton Wright 0-0, 0-0, 0; Kyle White 3-6, 3-4, 9; Frank Roach 2-2, 3-4, 7; Larry Bailey 1-2, 0-0, 3; Jarvis Turnage 0-0, 0-0, 0; A.J. Neal 1-3, 0-0, 2; Josh Ward 3-7, 0-0, 6. TOTALS 28 8-16 65.
Three-point field goals: Sussex Central 2-5 (Harris, Bailey); Dover 3-12 (Moses 2, Wright).
Rebounds: Sussex Central 27 (Young 5, Wright 1, White 9, Roach 3, Turnage 1, Neal 1, Ward 5); Dover 28 (Evans 6, Cousins 5, Stevens 4, Moses 2, Wright 6, T. Hurst 3).
Assists: Sussex Central 9 (Young 1, Harris 1, White 2, Roach 2, Bailey 3); Dover 4 (Moses 1, Wright 2, T. Hurst 1).
Blocks: Sussex Central 2 (White, Ward); Dover 4 (Cousins, Stevens 2, Wright).
Steals: Sussex Central 8 (Young 2, White 1, Bailey 3, Neal 2); Dover 9 (Evans 4, Stevens 2, Moses 1, Wright 2).
Sussex Central head coach Tim Slade on the late-game breakdown by his team:
"We think we had control of the whole game. They came out and ran the defense that we asked, we ran our nice offensive set. Their press, we did a really good job tonight of breaking it. However, down the end, we just didn't discipline ourselves and be patient. We saw an opening and we tried to go ahead and help out the team. I'm not upset with the guys. They did what they thought was best with helping the team."
Slade on the Knights' last chance when forward Jamil Young got caught between a shot and a pass and lost the ball out of bounds:
"He's really upset about that right now. He felt that he had the open guy and he didn't throw it and he just kind of shot the ball and he didn't have enough lift on the ball. Things like that happen. We wouldn't be here in this situation if it wasn't for Jamil Young. Like I said, he thought he was doing what was best for the team. I'm not upset with Jamil Young, I'm proud of Jamil Young, I'm proud of all 14 guys I had out there tonight."
Slade on the effort by Dover to come from behind:
"They play hard the entire game. Down the end, they established their defense and it worked. Unfortunately, we wanted to make the plays down the stretch, but we had a couple of bad breaks down the stretch. Mentally, we didn't do the right things. Physically I thought we were there. We did a good job on the boards, but down the end, we had a lead, I thought we were in control, but just some bad breaks happened and unfortunately we lost the game."
Slade on the heart-breaking ending:
"You don't want it to be, for all the seniors, that's the way they go out when you were in control of the game and you had the game. I mean, if you're going to lose, you want to really lose. Like I said, we just had some bad breaks and we didn't do mentally what was right."
Photo: Sussex County resident and former Indian River coach Pat Kelly has guided Dover to the state championship game for the first time since 1977.
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