MILFORD — After graduating two first team All-State players, the Sussex Central High girls had to reload this season.
The Golden Knights did that, and now, they’re peaking at the right time.
Sussex Central earned its second consecutive Henlopen Conference Northern Division championship on Wednesday with a 67-41 victory over Caesar Rodney High in a game played at Milford High. The contest was a tiebreaker for the division championship after both teams finished 10-2 in the North and split the season series against each other.
The wide margin of victory was more impressive considering the fact Caesar Rodney downed the Golden Knights 55-38 on Jan. 8. But that was early in the season, when Sussex Central was still learning how to play without last year’s stars Taylor Pritchett and Jasmine Hudson.
The Golden Knights (15-5) ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
“Everybody said we were done,” said Sussex Central coach Ron Dukes.
“Everybody said we lost two first team All-Staters and there was no way we could be back. I kept saying, ‘Well we’re not done yet.’ We have three good seniors and then you tie in the younger players, they all do their job. They’re all doing a good job right now at the right time of the season.
Sussex Central will play the Henlopen South champion Woodbridge in the Henlopen Conference title game on Friday at 6 p.m. at Dover High.
The Golden Knights owe a large part of that to a 16-2 run against CR that started midway through the first quarter and lasted into the beginning of the second.
“We had to defend our title,” said senior Lamesha Walker. “We knew it was going to take a lot of work this year. Caesar Rodney is a really good team and it feels good for us to beat them to go play in the conference championship.”
Walker led all scorers on Wednesday with 21 points. She converted three-straight shot attempts on the first three possessions of the second quarter as Sussex Central built its double-digit advantage.
“She was having a field day,” Dukes said. “We told her she could take them off the dribble if she caught it high. She just kept going at it and going at it.”
The Riders (16-5) opened the game by hitting their first three field goal attempts to go up 7-2, but once Sussex Central got on top the Golden Knights did not relinquish the lead.
Three other players finished in double figures for Sussex Central. Senior Tatyana Jenkins scored 16 points, freshman Ambria Stratton had 12 and senior Emily Truitt chipped in 11.
“We were seeing the floor and feeding the post,” Walker said. “We were getting the ball to our open people.”
“We beat the press and got some nice opportunities,” Dukes said.“The kids fought and made some good things happen for us. Shots fell early and then they just kept falling.
Caesar Rodney was able to cut into its deficit to trail 30-19 at halftime, but the Golden Knights outscored the Riders 21-11 in the third quarter to make it a 20-point game.
Alissa Haith paced CR with 14 points while Alexis Reid scored 11 and Brionna Brooks added 10.