Coming into the first game of a singular 2020-21 season, Cape Henlopen boys’ basketball coach Shemik Thompson knew his starting five would be pretty unique, as well.
“We lack size, for sure,” Thompson said at a practice in December, referring to a roster that may rank among the Vikings’ smallest ever.
With no true big men in the lineup for its season opener Jan. 12 at Sussex Tech, Cape had to take the challenge and run with it.
The Vikings stormed to a 67-47 win over the Ravens with a Mike D’Antoni-style “seven seconds or less” offense that produced a barrage of transition buckets and a career-high 32 points from senior wing Ja’Vaughn Burton.
“This win feels amazing after taking two losses to [Tech] last year,” Burton said after scoring the most Cape points since Ian Robertson dropped 37 at the 2017 Slam Dunk. “[Thompson] said we had to get the ball up the floor quickly, and that’s what our point guards did all night. We wanted to force the issue, and they did a really good job.”
Tech was trailing just 32-30 at intermission despite Burton’s 18 first-half points, but the Vikings took charge, embarking on a 25-6 third-quarter run fueled by Ravens turnovers and quick conversions on the other end.
Burton poured in 12 points during the run, including a corner three-pointer and a three-point play in traffic, while Nate Sivels hit a pair of long-balls. Brody Pedersen capped it with a high-arcing 25-footer from the top of the key to put Cape ahead 57-36 with 30 seconds left in the third frame, and the game was all but over.
Burton chalked up the flurry to a halftime shift in team mind-set.
“In the locker room, coach said we needed to turn it on and go after these boys,” said Burton, who also collected seven rebounds and three steals. “Our energy level went up, we played harder, and we played together.”
Sivels excelled for Cape, finishing with 13 points, six assists and three steals, while Pedersen scored 13 points and knocked down three three-pointers.
Kay'von Jackson added seven points and five assists. Junior forward Zimere Bolden grabbed 11 rebounds and a bucket in his first career start.
Thompson was happy to get the win but conceded that his Vikings have some work to do.
“We want to play in the 70-80-point range,” he said. “Pace is something we stressed in the preseason, but we didn’t really get to test that until now. Today was OK. It’s not quite where we wanna be in terms of pace and ball movement, but it was a great test. We wanna play quick, which is a style of basketball I like to coach and our players seem very excited about playing.”
Thompson also praised Burton after his scoring outburst.
“[Burton] started off a little shaky, but so did the whole team,” he said. “Once he gets it going like he did tonight, he can be one of the best scorers in the state.”
The Vikings (1-0, 1-0 Henlopen North) forced 20 Tech turnovers and limited the Ravens to 38 percent shooting, but the most impressive number was its 35-28 advantage on the boards.
Sophomore guard Jameel Watson led Sussex Tech (0-1, 0-1 Henlopen North) with 14 points, while sophomore forward Donald Saintphard notched 10 points and nailed two three-pointers.
Cape will welcome Polytech to the Big House at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 15. COVID-19 restrictions limit fans to one person per athlete, but the game will be livestreamed on NFHS Network.