DOVER — Devaughn Mallory was waiting to get back on the court.
Saddled with foul trouble, Polytech High’s star forward spent most of the second quarter on the bench.
But he stayed out of foul trouble in the second half and helped the Panthers put together a rally in front of a packed Dover gym.
Mallory scored 16 of his game-high 17 points in the second half as Polytech came from behind to win a Henlopen Conference Northern Division matchup, 53-51, over the Senators on Friday night. The Panthers remained unbeaten against instate teams and improved to 7-0 in the North (12-1 overall).
“The first half I knew I wasn’t helping my team and letting them down because I wasn’t performing,” Mallory said. “I said we got to make a change. ... The second half, we just took over.”
Juwan Gray and Chase Chappel each netted 11 points for the Panthers, who also beat Dover 68-64 on Jan. 9. Polytech dropped both games to Dover during the regular season a year ago.
Friday was the first time the Panthers made the trip to Dover’s new gym.
“After going 0-2 against them last year, we just wanted to leave a statement in their new school,” Mallory said.
Mallory gave the Panthers their first lead since it was 3-0 when he scored seven unanswered points to end the third quarter. His floater with a minute left in the third period put Polytech ahead 41-40 and he ended the third with a two-handed slam.
Gray’s basket to begin the fourth quarter extended the advantage to 45-40 and capped a 17-3 run by Polytech.
“They’re a good team,” said Dover coach Stephen Wilson. “They’re a senior-laden team. That’s the reason why they’re winning games. I don’t think we rattled them and I think we got rattled at times, made some careless turnovers which put us in a predicament.”
Dover (5-3 North, 6-7 overall) has lost five of its last six. All of those defeats have come by two points or less.
“We’re right there with this group that we have,” Wilson said. “As long as we keep plugging along in practice, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be better days for us to come.”
Dover did manage to tie the game 47-47 in the fourth quarter.
John Pierce III hit a free throw to put the Panthers back on top and Mallory made it a three-point game by burying a turnaround hook shot from the low block. Dover then turned the ball over the next four times down the court.
Gabe Brown’s free throw gave Polytech a four-point lead and the Senators were able to cut their deficit to 51-49 in the final seconds. But Polytech broke Dover’s press and Mallory finished a fastbreak with another dunk.
“His dunks are able to change the atmosphere,” said Polytech coach John Pierce Jr. “Big plays like that I think can change the momentum for us.”
Dover was able to hit a layup with five seconds left but time ran out on its comeback attempt. The Senators led by as much as 13 in the first half.
“I just think it’s our basketball IQ right now,” Wilson said. “There’s just some things we’ve got to learn and go to do right now. If we keep building I know we’ll be OK. But we’ve got to do the little things like make free throws, block out, take charges, stop reaching, make adjustments and follow the scouting report. We’re playing hard but we’ve got to cash in on these free throws and get stops when we need them.”
Dover’s hot start was thanks to Jordan Allen and freshman Thomas Hoskins. Allen had 15 in the first half and Hoskins scored 14 to combine for 29 of Dover’s 34 points at halftime.
Polytech switched its defense in the second half, putting Chappel on Allen and having him faceguard him on the perimeter.
“We changed things and wanted to guard him a little closer,” Pierce Jr. said. “We put a guy on him and ran a little 1-2-2 zone, too.”
Allen finished as Dover’s leading scorer with 17 points.
Polytech closed the gap at halftime thanks to a 6-0 run in the final minute of the second quarter.
“We need games like this tonight to make us better for the tournament,” Pierce Jr. said. “It was a scrappy game all the way. We got down early and fought our way back. Our guys showed resilience tonight.”
Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at email@example.com or 741-8224. Follow @TimMastroDSNon Twitter.