Game of the Week
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Photo: Seaford's Tamekia Ross lays in 2 of her 26 points against Caesar Rodney.
SEAFORD -- Little has come easy for the Seaford High School girls' basketball team in defense of its 1999 Henlopen Conference championship.
Adversity has been a regular visitor to the Blue Jays this season, including the 56-49 Henlopen North victory over Caesar Rodney that put Seaford back in the thick of the division race on Thursday night, Feb. 10, 2000.
No one expected Thursday's victory to come easy -- least of all Seaford coach James Weardon. The Riders entered the game unbeaten in the conference including a 44-36 win over Seaford back on Dec. 16, 1999.
Still, the Blue Jays had to fight off plenty of adversity to rise to 13-1 in the North and 14-3 overall while dropping the Riders to 15-1 and 17-2.
If the two teams finish the regular season tied for first place, a playoff game will be held to determine the Northern Division champion and representative in the conference championship game.
The Blue Jays needed a gritty performance to keep their hopes to return to that championship game alive Thursday night.
Specifically, they needed a rare three-pointer by senior standout Tamekia Ross and four free throws by freshman Ebony Keaton in the final moments to overcome a nine-point second quarter deficit, foul trouble that sat Ross on the bench for nearly three minutes in the fourth period, and the loss of stellar point guard Shiree Halley to a head injury for the final 35 seconds.
Halley left with the Blue Jays nursing a 52-49 lead thanks to Ross' three-pointer with 1:02 remaining, but Keaton's four free throws in the final 20 seconds prevented a disaster. Ross, who finished with a game-high 26 points, hit a layup with 1:45 remaining to tie the game 49-49.
The Blue Jays held a 46-39 lead before Ross went to the bench with her fourth foul with 6:08 remaining in the game. The Riders immediately took advantage as Nicole Mack sank one of her 4 three-pointers, Toni Benson hit a layup, and Cherise Franklin hit a free throw and layup to forge a 47-47 tie with 4:05 to go.
Seven seconds later, Ross returned to the floor but the Riders took a 49-47 lead on a layup by Erika Woods while the Blue Jays came away empty on three consecutive trips down the floor.
Ross then hit the tying basket to set up the frantic final moments.
Mack led the Riders with 14 points.
CAESAR RODNEY (49) -- Tawaya Fisher 4 1-1 9, Toni Benson 1 0-0 2, Tricia Casarotto 3 0-2 6, Chenitra Jack 3 0-0 6, Quanni Jenkis 0 0-2 0, Nicole Crawford 2 0-0 4, Nicole Mack 5 0-0 14, Cherise Franklin 1 1-1 3, Erika Woods 2 1-1 5. Totals: 21 3-7 49.
SUSSEX TECH (56) -- . Totals: Shirelle Tingle 3 0-0 6, Elise Wynn 1 0-0 2, Shiree Halley 2 0-0 4, Tonya Purnell 3 1-2 7, Ebony Keaton 0 5-6 5, Tamekia Ross 12 1-1 26, Kadebra Brittingham 2 2-2 6. Totals: 23 9-11 56.
Three-pointers: Nicole Mack 4, Tamekia Ross.
Seaford coach James Weardon
Seaford senior Tamekia Ross
Seaford coach James Weardon on the victory:
"My girls have been looking for this game since Dec. 16 (a 44-36 loss to CR) and it's been a tough job saying 'We have a long way to go before that.' They're real happy and I'm happy for them, too."
Weardon on Tamekia Ross' rare 3-pointer that gave Seaford a 52-49 lead with 1:02 left in the game:
"She actually is a three-point shooter. We worked with her a lot at guard early in the season with the transfer of Kadebra Brittingham here. She's got the green light whenever she wants to and she pulled out and hit a big one today. I'd rather have her under the basket but I'll take that any day."
Weardon on freshman Ebony Keaton's four free throws to ice the game in the final 20 seconds:
"She's an outstanding defensive player and she gives us everything she has on defense. I always tell her offense is a bonus. She's really gotten better shooting foul shots and she's getting a lot of opportunities and doing most of her scoring from the foul line. They were big tonight. For being a 9th grader and the pressure, they were big."
Seaford senior Tamekia Ross on the victory:
"We knew what we had to do to win this game. We can't lose on our home court. We're undefeated so far. Everybody put everything on the line and we got the win. I'm proud of all of the girls who gave the effort, all 11 of us. I'm proud of everybody."
Ross on her rare 3-point attempt, which proved to be the winning points:
"That was a big three for us. I'm just happy it went in. It felt as soon as it left my hands like it was going in. I wouldn't compare myself to Michael Jordan, but we know where theball should be in the key moments of the game. I want the ball in my hands and they got it to me. I felt it and I was there and just let it go."
Ross on the adversity the Blue Jays have overcome to climb back into the division race:
"We were going through a lot of stuff in the beginning of the season but we finally got through that. Now we're on our way. We've got all of that behind us."
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