NEWARK, Del. — The Delaware 87ers (19-16) topped the Canton Charge (19-16) 115-109 in a foul-infested, grind-it-out affair that saw the Sevens move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference due to their tiebreaker advantage over now-fifth Canton. If the season ended today, the 87ers would be in the playoffs.
The first quarter started out like exactly the type of game you’d expect between two teams coming off a long layoff. Both sides struggled offensively, with Canton’s first field goal dropping three and a half minutes into the action. The Charge also shot just 6-12 from the foul line in the period. Quinn Cook, one of the team’s two All-Stars, led the team with eight points in the first frame.
For Delaware, All-Star Shawn Long picked up two early fouls, but Carlos Lopez played perhaps his best quarter of the season in the All-Star’s stead, notching 10 points and six rebounds in just eight minutes of work. His efforts highlighted a strong performance from the reserves, who outscored the 87ers’ starters 18-11 in the first. The Sevens led 29-23 after 12 minutes of play.
“It’s a great luxury to have,” Head Coach Eugene Burroughs said of Lopez. “When you lose a guy like Shawn, for us he affects the game in so many different ways, just the ability to score at the rim, screen setting, rolling to the rim. I thought Carlos came in and gave us some great minutes during that time period.”
The second quarter was all Canton from the outset. The Charge started the frame on an 11-0 run, while the Sevens failed to score a point until Russ Smith’s three-ball went in with 7:15 to go until halftime. Meanwhile, Delaware’s big men were mired in foul trouble. Long picked up his third personal early in the second and only registered three minutes in the entire first half. Lopez continued his strong play, but was tagged with his third late in the quarter.
In fact, the second quarter turned into something of a foul-fest. Both sides picked up a technical, while the Sevens ended up getting whistled for 17 personal fouls through the first two periods. The Charge, who had 10 fouls levied against them before intermission, won the second 30-20 and led 53-49 at halftime.
“One of the things I stress to our guys is ‘we have to be able to play through everything’, you know, play through adversity,” Burroughs said. “The refs do the best job they can do, and I think things are called evenly both ways, but for us it’s like ‘can you be mentally tough enough to play through those situations?’”
The tables turned back toward the Sevens as the third quarter began. Delaware regained the lead early in the frame and kept the Charge at arms length. Of note, Long twice missed both of his free throws, but the 87ers got the offensive rebound and scored both times. There were also three more technical fouls called, two against Canton. Delaware led by five heading into the fourth.
The final period featured a poster dunk from Devondrick Walker, who seemed to be taking out his shooting frustrations on the rim. The Charge made things interesting throughout the frame, even making it 103-101 Delaware with 2:32 left. Out of the ensuing timeout, the Charge was whistled for yet another technical foul. From that point, the 87ers outscored Canton 12-8 to seal the 115-109 win.
“I think we just made a couple good plays,” Burroughs said. “You gotta just kind of find a way to win.”
Delaware, which never trailed in the fourth quarter, had seven players finish in double figures. Smith (24) led the way, with Aaron Harrison (15), Nate Robinson (14), Long (13), Lopez (13), James Webb III (11) and Danuel House (11) also crossing the threshold.
The Charge were paced by D-League All-Star Game MVP Quinn Cook, who finished with 31. The Sevens need a win in the final meeting of the year with the Charge to seal a potential tie-breaker with them outright. That game is this Friday, Feb. 24 in Canton. The win is Delaware’s third in a row, and the team ends a season-long five-game home stand with a 3-2 record.