Dover Post
  • Another standout season makes Polytech Panthers “Team of the Year” in boys basketball

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  • Slowly but surely, the Polytech boys basketball squad has become one of the top programs within all of the Henlopen Conference.  This past season was no different, as the Panthers cruised to a 17-3 record, making them the Dover Post “Team of the Year” on the men’s hardwood.
    Entering the 2012-13 season, the Panthers had come off another successful run to the State Quarterfinals where they were finally dispatched by Concord at the BOB. Unlike last season, the question of whether or not they could have the same success was uncertain. The Panthers were losing some key pieces including Justin Braddy, Brandon Hines and standout Eric Laster.
    The Panthers quickly eased those worries starting out the 2012-13 campaign winning 8 of their first 10 games, including a 7-0 record against Conference opponents.
    After losing their second contest of the season to Hogdson in early January, the Panthers topped off the remainder of their regular season schedule by going 9-1 the rest of the way to finish with a 17-3 record.
    The Panthers advanced to yet another Henlopen Conference Championship Game as the defending champs having defeated Smyrna last season. While they came up short, falling to Cape Henlopen by a point 66-65, the Panthers were still headed to the DIAA State Tournament.
    In the first round, Polytech drew a tough St. Elizabeth team led by standout Andre Patton who many said would end the Panthers streak of deep runs in the tournament. And while Patton did do some damage, he was kept under control by Antonio DePina and Harry Johnson and the Panthers were able to earn a 6-point victory to move on.
    Unfortunately, the run ended once again for the Panthers in the next round as they fell to 18-1 and eventual State Champion Howard, 68-53.
    With only 3 seniors on the squad, the Panthers had to have contributions from their underclassmen to continue to hold their elite status among the rest of the conference.
    The Panthers got strong minutes from the likes of John Williams, Richard Hicks, Christian Black, Devaughn Mallory and Juwan Gray.
    Along with some strong play from some sophomores and juniors, the small leadership core of the Panthers leaned heavily on Coach John Pierce who has been able to mold Polytech into a contender year-in-and-year-out.
    “Coach Pierce had a big impact on us on the court,” said DePina. “The past players from Polytech taught me how to be tougher and how to not be scared of anyone because we have had a lot of Delaware’s best players play here.”
    And while they will lose DePina, who is off to Kutztown University in the fall, and Johnson who was a standout defensively, the Panthers do have a large group of promising underclassmen returning.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I believe Williams, Gray, Black, Cory Chappel and Noah Adams are capable of filling holes,” said Pierce. “Also, I’d keep my eye on Mallory and Hicks.”
    With a possible 9 players returning, it’s hard to believe the Panthers won’t be able to repeat the success they’ve had in the past. While losing top players will always create question marks, the Panthers have been in that situation before and are able to respond with new players.
    Next season, along with a new group of seniors and underclassmen returning another year wiser, the Panthers will most definitely compete once again within the Henlopen South Division and the Conference.
    The question is whether or not there are players ready to fill the big shoes left behind by the exiting seniors. However, under the strong-willed Coach Pierce and the promising talent he has built, the Panthers are always expecting to contend for a State Championship and next season should be no different.
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