The high school basketball season is nearing its midway point, a time where teams out in front of the pack look to distance themselves, others in the mix hope to continue to make their case for a tournament berth and some are simply playing for their playoff lives.

Right now, Henlopen North squads Polytech and Caesar Rodney are headed in different directions. After a fast start, the Lady Riders have struggled down the stretch, meanwhile, the Lady Panthers are having a breakout year on the hardwood.

After a standout season a year ago, CR came into this year with high expectations. They started the year red-hot, but have since cooled. Since winning three in a row to start the year, the Lady Riders have dropped six of their last eight games, despite strong play from junior Kylie Kornegay-Lucas and seniors Alexis Reid and Brionna Brooks.

If they hope to avoid the beginning of another losing streak, they’ll have to knock off a Polytech squad currently playing at a high level.

Just a season removed from a 7-13 finish, the Lady Panthers have been a surprise team this season, going 7-2 over their first nine games, already equaling their win total from a year ago with 11 games left to go.

For Polytech Head Coach Dayra Diamond the turnaround they’ve seen thus far is due to a culture change.

“[This preseason] we wanted to change the culture for the players,” Coach Diamond said. “Building mental and physical toughness, confidence and having a ‘sherpa’ mentality.”

Led by their one and only senior, Kaylee Williams, and a trio of underclassmen standouts, Yaa Afriyie, Courtney Turner and Jazmin Kellam, Polytech has put together a six-game winning streak coming into this week’s play.

Unlike their opponent, CR, Polytech had a sluggish start to the season losing each of their first two games, falling to aforementioned Lady Riders and Cape Henlopen by a combined 47 points.

Since then, however, they’ve been playing lights out, rallying off victories over conference foes Dover (2x), Milford, Sussex Central and Smyrna, while also defeating out-of-conference opponents Middletown and Delcastle.

Despite their recent tough stretch, Caesar Rodney still finds themselves in good position within the conference, sporting a 5-2 record against Henlopen North Division. A win over Polytech would put them in good shape heading into the home stretch of the season where they’ll face Dover, Cape Henlopen, Appoquinimink, Smyrna, Sussex Tech and Delaware Military Academy.

On the other side, the upstart Lady Panthers could improve to 6-2 against the conference with a win over the Lady Riders.

After taking on CR, it’s a literal tough road ahead for Polytech who will play seven of their final nine games away from home, including five straight to close out the season.

Polytech and Caesar Rodney will hit the hardwood Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.