WILMINGTON- The Blue Coats trailed by 23 points at halftime as they could not contain a fully healthy Austin Spurs team while missing 4 of their top players.
Ricky Council, Terq Smith, Kenneth Lofton Jr. who were on assignment with the 76ers post trade deadline and Javonte Smart who signed in Serbia recently, were out of action. But halftime was a true turning point in this game as some magic seemed to happen.
Delaware hoops legend Waite Bellamy’s number 9 retired at Chase Fieldhouse and perhaps some of that legendary energy spilled into the locker room because the second half was ALL Blue Coats.
Waite Bellamy played his entire 8-year professional career with the Wilmington/Delaware Blue Bombers of the EPBL from 1963-1971. Bellamy was a part of back to back EPBL championship teams in 1966 and 67, earned All-EPBL honors in 3 of his seasons and was named EPBL MVP in 1970.
Bellamy has his number 25 retired at Florida A&M and now his number 9 in Wilmington. Legendary Philadelphia icon Sonny Hill introduced Waite to the crowd, Bellamy said a few words in front of surviving teammates and family members and was presented his 1970 MVP trophy at mid-court.
The energy in the gym was returned after the ceremony as the Blue Coats would answer the bell and play inspired basketball in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Spurs 37-22.
Former Rhode Island standout Jeff Dowtin led the way for the Blue Coats in the quarter scoring 10 points, joining Darius Bazley who dominated the first half with 26 points in the comeback effort. Melvin Frazier, who was held scoreless in the first half, scored 7 in the quarter.
After a horrible first half defensively, Delaware continued to lock in on that end of the floor in the fourth quarter.
After surrendering 40 points in the second quarter alone, they held Austin to only 40 second half points. Bazley and Dowtin were the guys down the stretch in this one, combining for 18 of the teams 26 points in the final frame.
The Coats completed the comeback and tied the game at 118 with 2.6 seconds left and possession.
They once again went to Darius Bazley on an iso at the top of the key.
Bazley euro-stepped into the lane, fought off some contact and put up a floater that would go off glass and fall away, but heading to overtime was an accomplishment in itself.
G League overtime rules are unique. There is no game clock and instead teams would have a play-off, first to score 7 points wins.
After a bucket by Jarron Cumberland started the scoring for the Coats and a huge 3 by Marcus Bagley, the Blue Coats head coach Mike Longabardi made a strategic call to have the Coats intentionally foul Austin while up 123-122.
This guaranteed Delaware a possession to win it. Former Blue Coat David Duke Jr., who led the way for the Spurs with 22 points and 9 rebounds, then split the pair of free throws which tied up at 123.
Coats’ guard Jarron Cumberland took a pass at the top of the key and called GAME. A strong drive and finish over two Spurs defenders would conclude the game in walk-off fashion.
Cumberland finished with 13 points in game 1. Bazley led the way for Delaware with 36 points and 9 rebounds.
Four other Coats joined Cumberland and Bazley in double figures, led by Jeff Dowtin’s 26 points (20 in the second half) and 11 assists.
The Blue Coats were once again undermanned in game 2 on Saturday night, and the first half was much of the same.
The Spurs would take a 67-44 lead into the break, led by RaiQuan Gray and Sidy Cissoko’s 12 points apiece. The Coats failed to have a double-digit scorer in the opening 24 minutes. Jared Brownridge and Marcus Bagley each had 9 points, while game 1’s leader, Darius Bazley only had 4 points.
There was no comeback in Saturday’s matchup.
The Spurs won 128-87. RaiQuan Gray led the Spurs in game two with 21 points on 8-11 shooting, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Marcus Bagley led the Blue Coats with 20 points on the night.
The Blue Coats after the split sit at 11-6 overall and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings.
They will head up to Long Island to take on the Nets on Feb. 13 before returning to the Fieldhouse to take on the Grand Rapids Gold on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
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