BY ANDREAS BUTLER
During a rebuilding year, the Deltona High School boys basketball team found a way.
The Wolves defeated a talented and deep 24-win Atlantic team 94-90 in the district 7A-5 championship on Feb. 10.
“We’ve been playing better lately. We finally got our chemistry and guys started stepping up. We progressed and guys bought into what we’re trying to do,” said Deltona Head Coach Denny Hinson.
During the district tournament, the Wolves also took down a talented New Smyrna Beach (18-7) team 63-53 and beat Pine Ridge 71-56.
Deltona has won seven of its last nine games.
Hinson and Hinson
One of the area’s best talents in 6’6” sophomore guard Blake Hinson.
“It’s different this year being the guy. Last year I had my big brother Evan, who is now playing football and basketball at South Carolina. I expected everyone to come after me with him and the players from last year gone,” Blake Hinson said.
Coach Hinson added, “Blake is Blake! He does what he does. He is averaging about 30 points. Most teams go box and one on him, but we can count on him.”
Blake is Coach Hinson’s son. The younger Hinson is proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“We were counted out, but we won when it counts. We’ll have to continue that,” he said.
Other solid players
Deltona has an under-the-radar star in 6’2” junior guard Jalen Monroe.
“I have a big role. I have no problem being depended upon. I am tasked with defending the best players. I’m not intimidated,” Monroe said.
Coach Hinson remarked, “Jalen is a very special player. He is an elite defender that can guard positions one through four. He is up for the challenge. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
Freshman point guard Malik Hinson, sophomore forward Evan Busby and 6’6” 220-pound junior forward Marcello Payton are the supporting cast. Malik is Coach Hinson’s nephew.
“We have a solid group of guys contributing for us seven solid players. We also have two guys coming off the bench that can start for other teams,” stated Coach Hinson.
Little varsity experience
Deltona (15-10) had rough times this season after being dominant in recent years.
“We were just a young team. Not many of the guys on this team had varsity experiences,” Monroe said.
Blake Hinson echoed, “Many of the guys on this team didn’t have varsity experience heading into the season. They all stepped up, which makes it more special.”
The Wolves began the season with only one returning starter after making the Final Four last season.
Coach Hinson commented, “We had only one returning starter, a freshman point guard and so many new players. It was tough keeping the guys encouraged.
“We lost some close games that we were in throughout the season. Many teams wanted payback on us this year from previous years. They saw an opportunity to make us pay. We were everybody’s big game,” the coach continued.
Gridiron to hoops
The Wolves had to wait for football season to end to get their players together.
Coach Hinson explained, “This team is very competitive. Ninety percent of our team plays football.
They bring that toughness to the court. They don’t mind mixing it up. Our starting five for the first 10 games were all football players. It’s tough starting the season that way. In the past, there weren’t as many summer and fall leagues for these other sports.”
‘We have a shot’
The Wolves host Auburndale (17-11) to open the playoffs on Feb. 16. The winner faces the winner of Atlantic (24-4) and Orlando Edgewater (19-8) in the regional semifinals on Feb. 21.
The regional finals take place on Feb. 24 and the Final Four is Feb. 28 through March 4.
“We just have to continue to play like we have. We must continue to execute, defend and rebound.
We are firing on all cylinders. If we play that way, we can continue to grow. We have a shot. We will be a hard out,” the coach added.
Other local playoff teams include Flagler Palm Coast (9A), DeLand (9A), Atlantic (7A) and Deltona Trinity Christian (3A).