The Cape Henlopen boys’ basketball team committed nine fourth-quarter turnovers and blew a late eight-point lead in a gut-wrenching 42-39 setback at Caesar Rodney Feb. 2 in Camden.
“That was the most frustrating loss I’ve had in 15 years,” said head coach Steve Re after Cape built a 32-24 lead early in the final frame only to give the game away in the waning moments. “I don’t get it. We lose our heads, we turn the ball over, we miss wide-open looks at the rim … I don’t get it. We held them to 42 points, so I’m pretty sure we played well enough to win. We lack consistent leadership on the floor. We make silly mistakes and don’t take care of the little things.”
When junior guard Kris Rushin drilled a three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give Cape an eight-point cushion, the Vikings had a golden opportunity to upset the well-regarded Riders and bolster their state tournament hopes.
They just couldn’t seal the deal.
CR scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a bevy of Cape miscues, and took a 36-35 lead when senior guard Zayquan Eaton converted a lay-in at the 2:28 mark. After junior wing Jo Jo Kirby answered with a baseline drive for the Vikings, the Riders misfired on their next trip down the floor. Up one with the ball, Cape had a chance to drain the clock and force CR to foul. Rushin dribbled up the floor and zipped a pass toward Kirby, but Eaton picked it off and raced the other way for an and-one layup to give CR a 39-37 edge with 1:16 left. The Vikings coughed up the ball again on their next possession, and senior guard Jaden Corbett sank a pair of free throws to ice the game for the Riders.
Rushin credited CR’s pressure defense for rattling Cape.
“They pressed us in the fourth, and we really didn’t know what to do with it,” Rushin said. “We should’ve won it, but the press got to us.”
Caesar Rodney played without 6-foot-6 senior wing Shaft Clark, its leading scorer and rebounder on the season.
Junior wing Sh’Kai Chandler scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds for Cape (7-8, 5-5 Henlopen North), while Rushin added 12 points, five boards and three steals. The Vikings also got six points on two three-pointers from junior guard Collin Mallet and a five-point, seven-rebound day from sophomore guard Ja’Vaughn Burton. Junior forward Jo Jo Kirby and sophomore forward Ethan Pires chipped in with two points apiece.
Pires, Cape’s leading scorer this season, injured his ankle on a rebound early in the second quarter and did not return to action.
The game was a defensive struggle from the opening tip, as the Vikings shot just 28 percent from the floor and the Riders hit at a 30 percent clip. Cape led 19-14 at halftime and limited CR to four field goals before intermission.
Rebounding was a bright spot for the Vikings, who enjoyed a 37-34 advantage on the glass.
Corbett led CR (12-3, 8-2 Henlopen North) with 11 points, while Eaton added nine points and four rebounds.
Cape will visit 12-3 Lake Forest Tuesday, Feb. 5. The Vikings likely need to win at least two of their remaining five games to put themselves in the state tourney conversation.