The home crowd was the biggest that Delhi High’s varsity basketball squad has seen all year and it caused problems for Denair, at least in the winding seconds.
Close to at least 500 people were in attendance for Friday’s critical Southern Athletic League bout between two schools who have built a friendly rivalry over the past few years and it proved to be a thrilling one that came down to the final seconds.
With less than three minutes remaining and Denair up 47-42, Delhi was backed up against the wall and knew they needed to find a spark from somebody. Well that somebody turned out to be junior Chance Browning.
Browning, who scored a team-high 19 points, went on to score eight of the team’s final 12 points in the final minutes and Denair just never found their rhythm at the end as the game ended with a 54-52 win for Delhi on homecoming night.
“We needed it,” said Delhi head coach Brian de la Porte, whose team lost two games by three points. “It is a dog fight, the whole SAL is in a fight for the final two playoff spots aside from Mariposa, and it was a huge win, gets us back in the mix.”
“Delhi made a couple more plays than we did,” said Denair assistant coach Garett Elliott. “It’s one of those games where their home crowd on their homecoming game and there was 400-plus cheering and they hit their free throws at the end and we just couldn’t make the play at the end to be able to get a closer.”
Delhi improves to 4-5 in the SAL while Denair drops to 4-6. No other team besides Mariposa has more than five wins in the SAL after Friday.
“Our kids were aware of the circumstances coming in, they are disappointed believe me but we are not out of it,” said Elliott. “Orestimba needs to lose and also Gustine, one or the other must lose two games at the end to have a chance.”
Denair and Delhi are still in the hunt for the playoffs and they are aware that it is a possibility but they must win out in order for that to be discussed.
“We knew our backs were against the wall and could not afford another loss,” said de la Porte. “We have two tough road games left and we will prepare for them and hopefully have a good practice and just get ready to become road warriors for our kids; so proud of them.”
Friday night was perhaps a learning experience for both sides.
Denair had troubles closing out the contest and Delhi finally was able to put together a late push in the closing minutes of the game, having come short in their previous two league games.
Both sides were even at 23-23 at the halftime break, and really all throughout the game. No side led by more than nine points, which was Denair in the second quarter, but Delhi would not trail by more than five points until the fourth.
Delhi was able to put the pressure on Denair and after Browning missed a three with about 1:12 left, he grabbed his rebound and drove it in the lane to score a two and one to tie it at 50-50.
Browning followed it with a basket and Arnold Perez knocked both free throws to put Delhi up 54-50 with 25 seconds left in the game. Denair got a basket, but there was not enough time left despite Chase Pritt getting a three off at the buzzer as it missed the target.
“Tonight we played with the three 'P's: purpose, poise and passion,” said de la Porte. “When we bring those things we are a decent team. When we don’t then we get beat, tonight we brought those three and that was huge for us, they were awesome. I just want our kids to fight through it all and tonight they displayed that.”
Denair’s next game will be at Gustine at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Delhi’s next game will be at Gustine at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.