MILLTOWN — Saint Mark’s started their boys basketball game March 2 with a three-point shot from Dom Shepherd, and the Spartans never trailed in a 44-31 victory over Red Lion Christian Academy in the opening round of the DIAA tournament. It was the Spartans’ second win of the season over the Lions.
The Spartans came into the tournament as the No. 27 seed, while the Lions were 38th of the 47 teams. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association went with an open tournament this year, and the Spartans made the most of the opportunity.
After Shepherd’s triple, the quarter largely belonged to forward Jabri White. He scored eight points in the first, all from short distance. The Spartans pounded the ball inside all night long, and White was the primary beneficiary early on.
Red Lion trailed, 13-4, after one, and they tried to slow the game down. After two early field goals that boosted their lead to 13, the Spartans went several minutes without a point. Gavin Shields continued to be the main offensive weapon for the Lions; he had eight at the half, but the visitors still trailed by nine at the break.
The Spartans are no strangers to a deliberate pace, but senior forward Nick Timmons said they wanted to move the ball a bit more against the Lions. The plan “was to get the ball in transition, and we were able to do that tonight, and we could score a couple more buckets.”
The third quarter included the night’s best offensive play. White grabbed a contested offensive rebound, stayed just inside the end line and passed the ball out to a teammate. The Spartans made two more quick passes to get the ball to Carter Marks, who lofted the ball back to White as he moved along the baseline. White jumped and caught the ball, and in one motion banked it in off the glass to make the score 27-17. The Lions, however, cut two points off their deficit and entered the fourth down by just seven.
Timmons, however, got the lead quickly back to double digits with a well-earned three-point play. He took the ball along the baseline, absorbed significant contact, and put enough into his shot as he fell to get it over the rim. The free throw put the Spartans ahead, 31-21, and they were never in trouble after that. White and Timmons both scored after that, extending the Spartans’ run to seven points and the lead to 14.
Timmons had 16 to lead the Spartans, with White adding 14. Saint Mark’s (8-5) advances to the second round on Thursday at 6:30 at No. 6 seed Smyrna.
Timmons said The Spartans are aware of Smyrna’s 14-0 record, and the Eagles will be a tough opponent, “but we just have to slow them down and play our game.”
For Red Lion, Shields had 15 and John Purnell 10. The Lions finished the season 4-11.
All photos by Mike Lang.