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Seniors lead Seahawks past Tritons in rivalry showdown

January 30, 2019
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To say that there was a little extra juice in the Cape Coral High School gymnasium Monday night would be an understatement.

The boys basketball team was set for its yearly matchup against rival Mariner, and so were the fans in what they call "The Nest."

It was the extra spark that propelled the Seahawks (6-15) to a 59-51 victory over the Tritons (5-15) to claim bragging rights against their crosstown foe.

Article Photos

CJ HADDAD / cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com

Cape Coral High senior Travaun Smaller contests Mariner's Alex Freeland at the rim during the Seahawks’ 59-51 victory Monday night. Smaller led all scorers with 23 points.

Though the crowd came to bring the noise, it may have been the senior leadership of one Cape Coral player that focused the Seahawks for Monday's tilt.

"I think it started on Sunday. One of our guys, Malik Kaba, put a message out there in the group chat - kind of took the bull by the horns and guided these guys and brought motivation," said first-year Cape Coral Head Coach Kevin Fields. "He made mandatory shootarounds, dressing up for the game, being here on time and making sure their ready to play. I give a lot to his senior leadership that sparked us to play with the energy we had. But overall the entire team contributed to the win."

That energy transferred from the players to the crowd, and was palpable throughout the contest as each team traded buckets back and forth all night.

No team could accomplish a double-digit lead and the majority of the game was played in a one-possession score.

Cape's eight-point victory was the largest lead by either team over all 32 minutes of play.

Mariner's Rashawn Hunter was the Tritons' leading scorer, dropping in 19 points on the night. Ericson Noel chipped in with 11 of his own as the two seniors accounted for more than half the team's offense.

The Seahawks had three seniors of their own in double figures, as guard Travaun Smaller led all scorers with 23 points, as he shot 6 of 15 from the floor, adding 10 rebounds and two assists.

Kaba and Jordan Walters each buried 10 points for Cape, with Kaba adding nine boards and Walters amassing three steals and some clutch buckets down the stretch.

It was one of Cape's best played games of the season, with Coach Fields stating that the performance was something the team has had in them all along.

"It's a choice," said Fields of the team's play. "Tonight they made the right choice. And again, I believe it started with motivating one another. They hear enough throughout the season from coaches. We try to spark them anyway we can, but sometimes you hit a wall. When it comes from one another, especially the seniors -when they're hungrier than their coaches, we get good results."

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Tritons clung to a one-point lead.

Foul trouble for Mariner sent Cape Coral shooters to the line countless times in the second half, as they were in the bonus for most of the final two stanzas (24 attempts overall).

After a timeout with the game knotted at 44, and five minutes to play, the Seahawks went on a 7-0 run, and never looked back.

"Once we were in the bonus, we needed to attack," said Fields. "When we control the pace offensively, we're able to dictate how we play defensively."

The defense stepped up big time for Cape Coral in the final minutes, as a number of steals led to fastbreak buckets, and more importantly, kept the ball out of the Tritons' hands in crunch time.

Mariner Head Coach Keeth Jones was discouraged with his team's lack of ball control and shot selection.

"We're not very smart as far as game, and situation, and what the defense does," he said. "You know we coach them, and at some point they've got to figure out that our way might help them a little bit more than their way. I give credit to (Cape), they played hard, our kids played hard, but we're not very smart, especially when we have the ball, that's been our problem all year."

Cape Coral 6-foot-3 freshman Kdyn Waters has been impressive all year, and has the respect of his coach and teammates alike.

Waters jumped a pass from a Mariner guard and took it down the floor to score in the final minute to seal the victory for the home team. He finished with eight points and three assists, along with the game-clinching turnover.

Senior Seahawk Jacob Dove also was an important role player in the game, notching four assists, six rebounds and three steals.

Just five regular season games remain for the 7A District 10 Seahawks, who hope to make some noise heading into the tournament.

"The message is leadership and it starts with the players," said Fields of what the message to his players will be to close out the regular season. "Everybody has a team, but when you're all in, you become a program. Programs are hard to beat."

Many seniors this year were a part of the team that went to the final four of the state tournament last year, and may be finding new roles as the 2018 edition of the Seahawk basketball team has graduated.

"These guys still have that heart. They tasted it last year and they want to get back to it. And I told them we have 25 warm-up games, and the ones that count is when Districts start."

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 
 

 

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