Lady Ravens riding a three-game winning streak

SALISBURY – With a young team, it takes a while to know just what to expect.

The Sussex Tech Lady Ravens showed just that last week in two basketball games versus nonconference Maryland-based opponents Worcester Prep and Salisbury School.

Ravens junior Rukiya Davis finds an open lane in last week’s blowout victory. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Ravens junior Rukiya Davis finds an open lane in last week’s blowout victory. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

While Sussex Tech won both contests, the Ravens’ on-court performance in the two games was like night and day. Versus Worcester Prep, Sussex Tech escaped with a two-point victory. At Salisbury School, the Ravens poured in nearly 50 second half points to win 72-22.

“We shot extremely well to make up for how terrible we shot at Worcester Prep,” Sussex Tech head coach Chester Davis said following the win over Salisbury School. “To me, the thing is we’re unselfish. We sometimes make the extra pass when we don’t need to.”

That unselfishness stems from how well the team’s roster gets along. In his five seasons as Sussex Tech’s head coach, Davis said the current group is the closest of any he has had.

“This is probably the closest group of kids that we’ve had,” he said. “They take care of each other and help each other and are unselfish. The year, at least the first month and a half, has been fun.”

To keep the Ravens close, Tech does bonding activities during practice.

One such activity centers around the story of former Cornell lacrosse captain Mario “George” Boiardi. Boiardi was struck in the chest by a lacrosse ball during a Cornell game in 2004, collapsed on the field and died. A short inspirational story about Boiardi written by Jon Gordon titled “The Hard Hat” was read by assistant coach Justin Davis and brought to the Ravens’ attention this season.

“We’ve been doing a follow-up from that book and we have a hard hat with ST on it and 21, which was his (Boiardi’s) number that we keep with us,” Chester Davis said. “Every Wednesday we have a team bonding activity and the kids look forward to it. It’s paying dividends.”

Winning helps keep things fun as well.

At the midway point of its schedule, Sussex Tech is 6-4 overall thanks to its current three-game winning streak. The three-game run began on Jan. 8 with a 37-28 victory over Henlopen Conference Northern Division rival Dover and includes last week’s sweep of the Maryland schools.

Defeating Dover made the Ravens’ Northern Division record 2-4 its first trip through conference play. While not seemingly impressive at first sight, the division mark includes overtime losses to Smyrna and Sussex Central as well as a close bout versus conference leader Caesar Rodney.

Keeping those games close, Davis said, will give his team confidence when it makes trip No. 2 through the division beginning with Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game at Polytech.

“In the past years in the fourth quarter (against many Northern Division teams) we’ve been behind by 35 and the clock has been running,” Davis said. “CR, Central and Smyrna might be down a little but they are still well-coached. We hung with them and were in position to maybe steal it at the end. That’s what is most important to us.”

If Sussex Tech continues to improve throughout the second half of its schedule, a state tournament berth is certainly a possibility.

Reaching the postseason is something Tech hasn’t done since the 2012-’13 season and ending that drought is at the top of the team’s list of goals.

“That is a goal for us and we’re taking it one game at a time,” Davis said. “We’ve given two games away, Central and Smyrna we had won with leads in the final minute, and we’re hoping next time around if we are in that situation we’ll know how to handle it.

Junior Kara Hignutt lays in two of her 12 points against Salisbury School. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Junior Kara Hignutt lays in two of her 12 points against Salisbury School. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

“Two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen, we’re young,” he added. “But yeah, I think our confidence is growing.”

Senior Heaven Carter agreed with her coach about the team’s confidence. She would also like her final season with the Ravens to end in the state tournament, something she hasn’t had happen in any of the previous three years.

“We want to at least make it to the tournament,” Carter said. “It’s my senior year and I want to finish it strong. Even getting one game I would be very excited. These girls are like my sisters. We played together all summer and we’re very close. Even when we are down in games we know how to keep our heads and stay confident.”

Although not down in the blowout victory over Salisbury School, Sussex Tech did let its hosts hang around for the game’s first 12 minutes. After that, however, the Ravens took control and forced multiple turnovers with their defense – both in a full-court man press and later in a zone – while seemingly being unable to miss on offense.

“Clearly when we played Worcester Prep we didn’t show really well,” junior Taryn Lewis said following the win at Salisbury School. “Today we had the mentality that we had to work hard. We just have to stick together as a team and play well so we don’t fall apart like we did last year.”

Against Salisbury School, sophomore Jayla Mullen led all scorers with 15 points and junior Kara Hignutt added 12. Freshman Janiya Stevens and Carter narrowly missed double-figures, finishing with nine and eight points, respectively.

Members of the 2015-’16 Sussex Tech girls’ varsity basketball team are: seniors Heaven Carter and Madeline Morris; juniors Taryn Lewis, Kara Hignutt and Rukiya Davis; sophomores Aliyah Browning, Jayla Mullen and Lakendra Harpe; and freshmen Camille Scott, Mi’Cah Shelton and Janiya Stevens.

Following Tuesday’s game against Polytech, Sussex Tech is scheduled to host nonconference Red Lion Saturday at noon.

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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