TABERNACLE-- Delsea’s seniors have been dreaming of a championship moment for most of their lives.
On Tuesday night, the dream came true, as the Crusaders defeated Seneca 53-40 in the South Jersey Group 3 final.
“We just wanted it so bad,” Delsea guard Kolby Braxton said. “Ever since kindergarten we’ve been playing together. I remember being on the playground at the park and saying one day we’re going to win the championship. In a moment like this, we just wanted it so bad. You don’t have time to be nervous or scared. We went out and we got it done.”
Braxton was at the forefront of Delsea’s second-half surge, as he and Javon Gordon scored all 12 of the Crusaders’ third-quarter points.
“When you just really want it that bad, it really helps with your momentum,” Braxton said. “We got a couple rebounds and were able to run the court. It was tied up a couple times and rebounds and effort made it six points, eight points in a row and then we had momentum and we could do what we want.”
The outburst came after a bumpy first quarter in which the Crusaders made a pair of field goals and went down three points after the opening eight minutes.
“Every championship game you get a little nervous, but after a while we just knew we had to do what we do just like every other game we play,” Braxton said. “We knew we could win this game if we played the way we wanted to.”
What Delsea lacked in height, it more than made up for in hustle and heart, as it forced Seneca to play its style for most of the 32 minutes.
“I think we embraced that a lot with each other,” Delsea’s Will Hawkins said. “Even if we’re not making shots or making simple turnovers, we are always there to push each other up so no one ever feels down. We could go down there and shoot five straight air balls and that doesn’t matter because on defense we’re going to work extremely hard, get the ball back and get another opportunity.”
Thanks to the output of Gordon and Braxton in the third and a strong defensive performance at the start of the fourth, the Crusaders used the final minute as the start of the celebration that no one on the team will forget.
“It’s been four years coming,” Hawkins said. “I can’t believe it’s here. I want to continue to keep going. I think we’re going to celebrate this one.”
For Braxton and his classmates, the victory was exactly what they dreamed of when they were kids watching Delsea’s hardwood stars.
“We were watching the guys above us and we just knew if we keeping playing the way we play, that hard effort and pure heart, we could find a way to beat anyone out there,” Braxton said. “On the playground we got wins, and thankfully here in high school, we were able to do the same thing.”