If the struggling Cape Henlopen boys’ basketball team wanted to start putting games in the win column, the Vikings couldn’t continue to live and die with the scoring of Ja’Vaughn Burton. Through Cape’s first nine games of the season, the senior wing averaged 23.4 points and accounted for nearly 40 percent of his team’s offensive output. Hosting a dangerous Sussex Central squad Feb. 19, the Vikings knew that others would have to step up and provide balance.
Zimere Bolden got the message.
The junior forward scored a career-high 11 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked five shots as Cape pulled away late in a 46-37 triumph.
Junior point guard Kay’von Jackson matched his season high of 11 points and knocked down a crucial three-pointer late in the fourth quarter, doubling the Vikings’ lead from three to six with 2:37 left. Burton connected on four straight free throws on Cape’s next two possessions to salt the game away and help his team avenge a January loss to Central.
“As a team, we weren’t the same defensive team as we were [when we lost to Central],” head coach Shemik Thompson said afterward. “Zimere was a monster inside with the double-double. Dylan [Fannin] came in and played huge for us, attacking the basket and rebounding. We’ve been shooting the ball well and haven’t been winning those games, but today we didn’t shoot particularly well and found a way to win. [Burton] didn’t have to carry us. He’s going to carry us some nights, but he doesn’t have to pull the ship by himself.”
The Vikings and Knights stayed within a few buckets of each other for most of the game, with Cape maintaining a slight advantage from the second quarter onward. Burton picked up his second foul late in the opening frame and was held scoreless in the first half, but senior guard Nate Sivels picked up the slack by scoring all nine of his points before intermission. Up 20-18 after a first half defined by defensive intensity, the Vikings opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run and led 29-20 when Jackson flipped in a reverse layup in traffic. Central responded with a 6-0 spurt of its own to tighten the score, and the teams essentially traded baskets until the final few minutes.
Bolden owned the paint, especially in the early going. He snatched eight rebounds in the first half alone and teamed with sophomore big man Dylan Fannin to challenge anything the Knights threw up inside. Fannin finished with three points, nine boards, and three blocks off the bench.
Bolden downplayed his career night and focused on his teammates.
“The win feels great,” he said. “We talked about what we had to do before the game, and we went out and did it. We worked better together than [in the teams’ last meeting]. We were more patient and moved the ball.”
Jackson was happy to even the season series.
“We weren’t shooting the ball very well, but we started running our sets, got it into the paint, and started hitting shots in the fourth,” said Jackson, who missed the teams’ January meeting with a shoulder injury. “We feel like we should’ve beat them the first time, so we had to get them this time.”
Burton finished with nine points and three assists on the night for Cape (3-7, 3-7 Henlopen North), while junior wing Brody Pedersen added three points and three dimes.
Central (7-5, 7-5 Henlopen North) got an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double from senior forward Chase Boyle and 10 points from senior guard Dontae Spencer.
The Vikings shot just 36 percent from the floor, but they made up for it by forcing 14 turnovers and outworking the Knights on the glass by a 30-23 margin.
Cape was set to visit Dover on Monday, Feb. 22.