Both Denair and Delhi boys basketball were aiming to snap their losing streaks and capture their first Southern Athletic League win of the season on Tuesday night in what turned out to be a tightly contested game that came down to defense and turnovers.
The Hawks of Delhi swarmed the ball and wreaked havoc on the Coyotes of Denair, forcing double-digit turnovers in each half while not allowing any easy buckets despite the final eight seconds when Denair scored five quick points.
It wasn't enough to mount a late comeback as Delhi topped Denair in the end, 47-43.
“Putting the ball in the hoop isn't something that we can count on every night,” said Denair coach Garett Elliott. “So we have to count on defense, which in the end isn't bad, but they hit some shots in the end and it allowed them to run away with it.”
“I think aside from the first two minutes of the game, we controlled the tempo for 30 minutes and that was huge,” said Delhi head coach Brian de la Porte. “They gave up the ball and it was big for us tonight. I would like to see us finish a little better, but we haven't been in that position a lot this year.”
Delhi snaps a seven-game losing streak dating back to mid-December. The Hawks last win prior to Tuesday came on Dec. 20, 2016, in a 47-41 win over Summerville.
“I am not looking ahead. The next opponent is Le Grand then I have no idea who we have next — just one game at a time,” said de la Porte. “Our kids are fighters and they play hard. When we play intelligent basketball then we are pretty good and I thought the effort has been there all year.”
The Hawks also dealt with one of the most competitive preseason schedules to-date, according to de la Porte.
“We had the most brutal preseason schedule I have ever put together,” he said. “Maybe I was a little too ambitious, but the thing with these 10 guys is they faced adversity all season long and not one time has anyone pointed the finger at one person or the other. This group is one of the tightest.”
Delhi was 3-12 in preseason while Denair was 3-8 and coming off two challenging games that didn't end well.
“The last two games we scored 30 points each and they stretched it out in the end and I think we got five points in such a quick frame so wasn't as close really,” said Elliott. “We have to do better at stopping the opponents and just basic stuff.”
Chance Browning dropped a game-high 23 points behind the Hawks who also saw Arnold Perez and Aiden Rocha score eight points apiece.
“He has been phenomenal. He is just getting so much better and passing the ball as well, which makes him even more dangerous,” said de la Porte of Browning’s performance.
Delhi closed out the first quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 13-10 lead and led 23-14 at the half.
Denair didn't help their cause after turning the ball over 24 times for the game.
“Delhi always puts good pressure on defense and you can always count on that,” said Elliott. “Plus it's always a little different when you come here to Delhi; it’s actually two totally different games when playing at Denair and Delhi because the court size does factor in.”
Drew Pritchard and Steffin Winston added a team-high 10 points apiece for Denair.
Denair has now lost five games in a row. Delhi snaps a seven-game losing streak.
“All the kids were big tonight, everybody contributed tonight, I played all 10 of our guys and they gave us great minutes,” de la Porte added. “It was big for us to conserve some energy. I thought we came in and did what we had to do which is great.”
“It is always a scrappy game with them, sometimes we win, sometimes they win,” Elliott added. “Something positive were the turnovers began to come down. We had two games in a row during the season where we had 30-plus turnovers. Seeing the number come down was nicer, especially since we played better I thought in the fourth.”
Delhi will travel on the road to take on Le Grand at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Denair continues their road league contests against Mariposa at 7:30 p.m. Friday.