In its lackluster loss to California power Harvard-Westlake on the second day of Slam Dunk to the Beach, the Cape boys’ basketball team patched together just 37 points, a tally that only a Saint Mark’s coach could love.
But in the Vikings’ Dec. 29 matchup with state title contender Caravel, the final game on the Slam Dunk docket, Ian Robertson matched that total all by himself.
Cape’s 6-foot-6 senior forward enjoyed a career night on the biggest of stages, exploding for 37 points and 12 rebounds, and catalyzing a huge second-half rally in an 89-74 Vikings triumph.
“[My teammates] just kept finding me,” said Robertson, who poured in 22 points after intermission to help Cape dig out of a nine-point halftime hole. “It just seemed like everything was going right for me. I was getting offensive rebounds, finishing, hitting free throws.”
Robertson connected on 12 of 17 field goals and went 13-for-18 from the charity stripe to match Gray Collegiate’s (S.C.) Juwan Gary for the 2017 tourney high. He came within two points of equalling the all-time (2014-17) Slam Dunk mark, set by Gray’s Jalek Felton in 2016.
Down 36-27 after an opening half that saw Cape surrender 18 points to all-state guard O’Koye Parker and misfire on 12 of its 13 three-point tries, the Vikings looked inside to Robertson to get back on track. The skilled big man responded with 13 points over the first seven minutes of the third period, during which Cape outscored the Buccaneers 27-13. After a thunderous follow-up dunk from senior forward Randy Rickards knotted the score at 46 with 2:11 left in the frame, Robertson hit a pair of free throws to give the Vikings a 48-47 edge – Cape’s first lead since early in the second – at the 1:43 mark. He added a lay-in and four more makes at the charity stripe before the quarter was through, extending the Vikings’ advantage to 54-52 with one period to play.
Cape continued the onslaught in the fourth, as senior guard Izaiah Dadzie and sophomore swingman Sh’Kai Chandler buried long three-pointers just 15 seconds apart to begin the frame. Rickards converted a lay-in through traffic on the Vikings’ next trip, and Cape suddenly enjoyed a 10-point bulge that it would never relinquish. Steve Re’s charges made 17 of 20 free throws over the final five-plus minutes of action to secure the school’s first Slam Dunk victory since the tournament’s rebirth in 2014.
“It feels good,” an ecstatic Re said. “We showed real resolve scrapping back [into the game]. We executed much better on offense [in the second half]. In the two losses we’ve had, we got away from playing inside to out. [The ball]’s gotta touch the paint in order for us to get good looks at the basket, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Dadzie finished with a career-best 20 points and drilled three long-balls for Cape (5-2, 2-1 Henlopen Conference), while Rickards powered his way to a 16-point, nine-board night.
“It was a good win for us,” said Rickards, who added three assists, three steals, and three blocks to keep the stat crew busy. “Our intensity changed [in the second half]. We just wanted it more. This shows everyone that we can compete against anybody.”
The Vikings’ 89 points were the most scored by any team at Slam Dunk to the Beach since the event returned to Lewes in 2014. Their 62-point second half, which featured 63 percent shooting from the floor and just three turnovers, set a lofty new standard for efficiency.
Re credited the win to something that Cape sorely lacked against Harvard-Westlake: simple shot-making.
“Making buckets helps,” said Re, whose team scored more points than in any other game during his seven years at the helm. “When you score, it’s a whole lot easier to defend.”
Re was also pleased with the play of his four sophomore guards - Chandler, Skylar Johnson, Kris Rushin, and Jo Jo Kirby.
“When you look at it, we’ve got three guys [Johnson, Rushin, and Kirby] who are only six games into their varsity careers,” Re said. “They’re still adjusting to the speed and the concepts and the game-to-game changes, so it’s been a tough learning curve for them, but they looked comfortable tonight.”
For Robertson, the Vikings’ fifth win in six games was a product of their commitment to basic basketball principles.
“We really did a good job of going inside,” said Robertson, who also blocked four shots. “[Caravel] didn’t really have anyone who could stop me or Randy [Rickards] in the post, so we put Randy at the high post and had me down low. We just looked for high-lows the whole time, and it worked well.”
Parker, one of Delaware’s most dynamic offensive players, paced Caravel (2-3) with 22 points but converted just two of his eight field goals in the second half. Sophomore guard D.J. Earl added 18 points for the Buccaneers, who also got 13 points and nine boards from junior guard Trevon Alderman and 11 points from junior forward Jordan Nasuti.
Chandler chipped in with nine points, Cape but shined brightest on the defensive end, as he blanketed Parker throughout the second half. Rushin and Johnson netted four and three points, respectively, with Johnson dishing out a game-high five assists.
The Vikings raced to an 8-2 lead after three minutes and held a 17-12 edge through one period, but 12 second-quarter points from Parker and a prolonged Cape shooting slump pushed Caravel ahead at the break.
The Vikings are back in action Tuesday, Jan. 2, when they visit Damon Ayers’s Sussex Tech Ravens (5-1). The opening tap is set for 7:15 p.m.
Day 3 results
Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) 48, Dillard (Fla.) 45: The Wolverines erased an 11-point first-quarter deficit and rode a monster game from center Mason Hooks to a hard-earned victory. The 6-foot-10 sophomore went off for 22 points and 16 rebounds, and accounted for eight of his team’s final nine points. Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang chipped in with 12 points and eight boards for Harvard-Westlake (12-2), which won for the third time during its four-game Slam marathon. Junior guard Deshawn Bartley led the charge for Dillard (6-4), dropping in 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting, while senior guard Bryce Oliver added 13 points.
Immaculate Conception (N.J.) 63, Archbishop Wood (Pa.) 59: This one boiled down to an individual battle between two exceptional senior guards in Jalen Carey of Conception and Wood’s Tyree Pickron. The Syracuse-bound Carey had the final say, as he scored 12 of his game-high 27 points over the last 6:23. The Lions (3-1) also got 20 points and several loud dunks from junior forward Justin Winston, while Pickron – committed to Quinnipiac – finished with 24 points and six three-pointers to lead the scrappy Vikings. Senior guard Andrew Funk chipped in with 15 points and five assists for Wood (3-3).
Bishop McNamara (Md.) 65, Howard (Del.) 61: The Mustangs squandered a 14-0 first-quarter lead but outclassed the Wildcats down the stretch. Senior guard Nigel Marshall netted 18 points and snagged 12 rebounds for McNamara (8-4), while senior guard Ibn Williams drained four three-pointers on the way to 18 points. Howard (4-4) was buoyed by a 24-point, nine-rebound day from senior guard LaMar Woody, who canned four long-balls of his own and dished out five assists. The Wildcats fought out of an early hole and took their first lead at 54-53 on two fourth-quarter free throws by senior guard Fahmee Flowers, but the Mustangs responded with a 12-7 run to end the game.
#13 (MaxPreps) Gonzaga (D.C.) 58, Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) 44: The Slam’s highest-ranked squad survived a scare from the young Lions, overcoming an eight-point deficit on the strength of 25 points and eight rebounds from do-it-all sophomore Terrance Williams. The 6-foot-7 swingman put the Eagles on his back, lighting it up from all over the court. Senior forward Allin Blunt chipped in with 14 points for Gonzaga (9-0), which outscored Loughlin 39-20 in the second half. Twin wings Justin and Julian Champagnie combined for 27 points and 13 boards for the Lions (4-6), who shot a paltry 37 percent from the floor and committed 16 turnovers thanks to endless pressure from a quick, aggressive Eagles defense.
Westtown (Pa.) 74, Sidwell Friends (D.C.) 62: The Big House bid a fond farewell to superstar wing Cameron Reddish, who closed out his fourth and final Slam Dunk in style. The Duke commit treated a packed house to 32 points, five assists, and 5-for-9 three-point shooting, showing off his full arsenal of fluid offensive moves. The Moose (11-7) also got 19 points and six rebounds from Indiana-bound forward Jake Forrester, who brought his high-octane, above-the-rim game from the tip. Junior guard Jason Gibson kept Sidwell close with a 31-point night, as he delighted the crowd with an array of silky floaters, courageous drives to the hole, and deep trifectas. Senior swingman Saddiq Bey contributed 18 points and five boards for Sidwell (4-4). Westtown went a perfect 19-for-19 from the free-throw line and shot 57 percent from the field.