The Polytech and Dover high school boys basketball teams will meet for the third time this season at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Delaware State University, this time with the Henlopen Conference Championship on the line.
The final buzzer sounded in the Polytech High School gym Feb. 23, and the approximately 1,000 fans that made up the evening’s crowd dropped in volume from a nearly two-hour deafening roar to sudden, stunning silence.
That was except for the 150 to 200 Dover High School fans that crowded the floor to congratulate their boys basketball team following a 66-63, overtime victory over the home team in front of a sold-out crowd.
The silent crowd’s shock quickly turned into anger at seeing their home court host a visitor celebration, following which a few upset fans marched to reclaim the floor they call their own.
Heated words were exchanged, some shoves were delivered, but the staff dispersed the crowd and cooler heads prevailed in the end.
The stage, however, had been set for events to come.
The two teams will meet again at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, as the Henlopen North champion Senators (15-3, 13-1) will take on the Henlopen South champion Panthers (16-4, 14-2) for the right to call themselves the top team in the conference.
The first two meetings between the teams both went to Dover, and Head Coach Stephen Wilson said the hype to the games is taking on a life of its own.
“This is becoming a heated rivalry,” Wilson said. “It’s not taking the place of CR, but this is a heated rivalry right now and these kids are accepting it.”
The conference championship game, which will be played at Delaware State University’s Memorial Hall, marks an important contest for both teams to enter the state tournament next week on a positive note.
However, the coaches on each side are not looking past this game for that reason. Each team is hungry to be the conference’s top dog.
John Pierce, head coach of Polytech, said his team knows it could make history with a win, as well as erase some of the poorer memories from a season full of highs.
“If you win the conference championship, the rest of it goes away,” Pierce said. “It’s the first time in Polytech history that we’re even in a conference championship game, and our guys deserve to be in that position right now.”
Wilson is looking at the game from a similar view, adding that he sees a win Saturday as putting the Senators amongst the elite in school history.
“It would be the first conference championship since 1992 and it could really solidify this team as one of the best teams in Dover High School history,” he said.
It would seem that Dover has its new rivals number, holding a Polytech team that has averaged more than 72 points per game to 53 and 63 points over the two games earlier this year.
Wilson said he does not see it that way, however, and that the Panthers are strong enough to take his team down on any given day.
“To play and beat a team like this three times in a season, it’s going to be a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “But we have no choice but to do it.”
To rattle off that third straight win over the Panthers, Wilson said his team would have to continue to play the stingy defense that has allowed it to run off a nine-game win streak.
“Polytech has three 20-point scorers on any given night, so you have to come in and defend them and guard them in all different types of ways,” he said. “We know that we’re not going to win this conference championship by just playing offense.”
Though the championship comes only four days after the emotional overtime loss, Pierce said nobody on his side is panicking, and with a few small adjustments that his team could reverse its fortune.
“We played OK,” he said. “We just didn’t execute when we should have. We’re going to watch film and we’ll be ready when the game comes.”
Polytech senior Anthony Myles agreed, and said the Feb. 23 loss needs to be a distant memory come tip-off.
“We played well when it came down to getting pressure, but we’ve got to keep that up,” Myles said. “We can’t let that game determine what we really want to do. We’ve just got to stick together, finish on our plays and capitalize on our opportunities.”
IF YOU GO…
WHAT Polytech High School (16-4, 14-2) at Dover High School (15-3, 13-1)
WHEN 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27
WHERE Memorial Hall at Delaware State University
MORE INFO Visit www.senatorssports.com
Email Brian Citino at email@example.com