Wilson’s game-winning free throw lifts Generals to APBL championship

MILFORD – Down seven points with under three minutes to go in Saturday night’s American Professional Basketball League (APBL) championship match-up inside the Milford High School gymnasium, the Delaware Eastern Shore Generals remained calm and had all the confidence they needed to pull off a comeback victory.

The Generals finished the final 2:35 of the game with an 11-3 run, and Kenny Wilson knocked down a clutch free throw with just one tick remaining on the clock to clinch the championship, 128-127, over the APBL United.

The championship victory caps Delaware Eastern Shore’s perfect 15-0 season, a season in which the Generals had been making their APBL debut.

The Generals hoist the championship trophy (background) while Julius Mullen Sr. conducts a post-game interview with team president/founder Jonathan Dukes (foreground).

“The guys have been working since Day 1. They knew this was something special, and that’s something that we talked about in the beginning of the year,” said head coach Andre Matthews following the win. “As the season went along, we knew that we probably had a pretty good shot once we started winning games and once things started to pan out. We had a couple of close games I think a couple weeks ago, and obviously this one, but we’ve got a bunch of resilient guys, so I was very confident in who we had on the floor at the end and we pulled it out.”

Guard Kyle White (43 points) was honored with the game’s MVP Award during the post-game trophy presentation.

“Even when we were down, I think seven with two minutes left, I thought ‘we’re going to win.’ Even when I missed a couple of free throws, I just knew something was going to happen because it is our time. We put in the work,” White said of the team’s win.

“It was tough. I give a lot of credit to Kyle,” said teammate Curt Chandler. “He put us on his back and carried us over the top. They (APBL United) were making a lot of shots – their No. 7 was knocking down shot after shot. It was a good game, I told the team to just stay focused and stay locked in and let’s get away with this W.”

The United’s leading scorer Shavar Richardson, the No. 7 Chandler was referring to, put up a game-high 45 points, including 10 three-pointers and an 18-point third-quarter performance.

It didn’t matter, as White and Chandler combined to put up 80 of the Generals’ 128 points on the night, with Chandler adding 37 to White’s team-high 43.

L-R: Andre Allen (8), Juwan Mullen, Tikeace Harris and Tony Hazzard celebrate the win shortly after the final buzzer sounds (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

Kenny Wilson scored 23 for the Generals, including the game-winning free throw. Andre Allen (nine points), Tikeace Harris (six), Juwan Mullen (four), Jaron Dukes (two), Stefone Dukes (two) and Jerome Driggus (two) rounded out the scoring for the Generals.

“We stayed in there, we stuck together as a team and we pulled it out,” Chandler said of the team effort. “We’re like brothers, we grew up together and it’s like a family. We just stuck together and made it through. All the other teams kept switching up rosters, trying to build their team but it’s not just about building a team it’s about the chemistry and that showed tonight.”

Most of Delaware Eastern Shore’s roster is made up of guys who played their high school ball right here in southern Delaware, whether it was Milford High, Cape Henlopen, Sussex Central, Seaford or another Henlopen Conference school, it’s fitting that the team played its home games nearby in Milford.

“Most of the guys, we’ve known each other all our life,” White said of his teammates. “We’ve played together, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we know who’s the alpha dog and we know who the role players are. I’m nothing without my shooters, I’m nothing without my big men who are setting picks for me. I’m nothing without any of these guys. We all know who’s who, we all play our role and that’s the key to it – you just play your role.”

Team photo with the 2017-18 APBL Championship trophy (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

The team hopes a win like this, competing and winning a league against semi-professional basketball teams from states such as New York and New Jersey, will help bring some more exposure to sports in Delaware – more specifically southern Delaware.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into, but we were hoping to compete and we thought it would be good to just have our community involved with this sort of basketball community,” said team president/founder Jonathan Dukes. “It feels so surreal. The hard work we’ve all put in – it gets tiresome. Our team commitment has been great, especially since everything was new for us this year. I have to tip my hat to them.”

Following such as successful inaugural campaign, the 2017-2018 championship season is likely just the beginning for the Delaware Eastern Shore Generals.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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