DOVER — Cierra Wheatley missed a shot right under the basket, Alexis Allen missed another close attempt and Dessi Rembert came up with the offensive rebound and banked in the follow-up.
With that basket, Sickles narrowed Strawberry Crest’s lead to three heading into halftime.
Turns out, the Gryphons’ final possession of the first half was an apt representative for their district matchup against the Chargers on Tuesday: they kept at it and kept at it until they had a breakthrough.
Wheatley led the Gryphons with 19 points, 15 in the second half, and Cassidy O’Brien added 15 to keep Sickles undefeated with a rugged 69-55 victory at Strawberry Crest.
“In the first half, we just weren’t under control,” Sickles coach Mark Key said. “But I challenged our kids at the half. They really responded in the second half.”
The Gryphons finally found themselves in a tight game after winning their first five by an average of 30 points. Their closest contest heading into Tuesday was a 13-point victory over Hillsborough in the season opener.
But playing for the second time in as many nights, Sickles (6-0, 2-0) couldn’t break free against the upstart Chargers (5-3, 0-2) until an 11-0 run in the third quarter.
The game-deciding stretch started with Allen’s three-point play with 6:17 left in the third, giving the Gryphons a 32-31 lead — their first since late in the first quarter.
O’Brien scored on back-to-back possessions, including a spinning floater, and Wheatley closed out the run on a layup off a steal to extend Sickles’ lead to 42-31.
By the time the quarter was over, the Gryphons had scored more points in the third (23) than in the first half (22).
“This is the first game we’ve really played against a really good team and been in a tight game,” Key said. “But we’re pretty deep and we felt like we had to put the pressure on them.”
Strawberry Crest sophomore star Aliyah Gregory scored a game-high 22 and Maiya Trigg added 19 for the Chargers, who have dropped three straight after five consecutive wins.
But they weren’t enough, as the Chargers wilted under Sickles’ defensive pressure in the second half.
Strawberry Crest had turnovers on five straight possessions and failed to score for more than four minutes during the Sickles' run that blew open the game.