Delaware Blue Coats rally back from a 20-point deficit to take down the Birmingham Squadron

Ricky Council IV sinks a free throw. Council scored 23 points and connected on four threes in the comeback win over the Squadron. - Monday, March 11, 2024. - Photo via Payton Tuorto

You can’t win a game in the first three quarters, but you can certainly win it in the fourth, and that’s what the Delaware Blue Coats (18-10) did on Friday, March 15 against the Birmingham Squadron (13-16) with a 132-126 come from behind victory.

After trailing by 20 points with 2:31 left in the third quarter, the Blue Coats flipped a switch defensively to rally back, holding the Squadron to just 1/5 shooting throughout the final minutes of the quarter. As a result, Delaware was able to chip away, making it a 103-91 game entering the fourth.

From there, it was all Delaware, as they went on a 20-6 run during the first six minutes of the quarter to take control of the game. With just under eight minutes to go, Terquavion Smith gave the Blue Coats their first lead since the 9:41 mark of the second quarter with a contested layup for two of his game-high 26 points.

The Squadron responded with a bucket on the ensuing possession to retake the lead at 107-106, but Ricky Council IV came down the court and hit his fourth three of the night, and the Coats never looked back.

“That group with Terq and them was making a big run and getting a lot of stops on defense,” Council said. “We were changing up the defense from man to zone, and I think it was messing with them a little bit, and then when we had the lead, we just knew we couldn’t let it go because we were already down a lot, so we wanted to get the win.”

The group that Council alluded to includes Quinton Rose, Aminu Mohammed, Pat McCaw, Chris Clarke, and Smith, who besides Smith, all recorded a plus-minus of 10 or higher, earning them the honor of being named as the “Coats of the Game” from their head coach Mike Longabardi. 

“They really brought it, so it was really, really good,” Longabardi said.

The Blue Coats were not only bolstered by the return of two-way guys like Council and Jeff Dowtin Jr, who combined for 44 points but also from the addition of Kai Jones, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the day after spending two years with the Charlotte Hornets.

In his first game in quite some time, Jones impressed many, including his new coach, with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals in just over 30 minutes.

“We just gotta get him up to speed,” Longabardi said. “I think he played three weeks ago in that Bahamas game and then before that, I don’t know the last time he played, maybe summer league. He did a good job, he’s obviously a gifted athlete that we can do some things with, and the more he’s around, the better he’s going to be.”

Another guy who’s seen a ton of NBA action as of late is Jones’ new teammate, Ricky Council. Ever since joining the 76ers in early January, Council has appeared in 22 games and currently averages 5.7 points in 9.2 minutes. On Feb. 10, he posted the first double-double of his young NBA career, with 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 119-113 victory over the Washington Wizards.

“It’s been amazing,” Council said. “It’s what I wanted to have this whole time, just being up with the team and learning, watching those guys every night so it’s been a good experience.”

One of the more notable things that Council learned involves his court vision and IQ, as the six-foot-six guard says there are “more things that he sees” rather than more things that he can physically incorporate into his game. He has noticed one notable difference between the two leagues though.

“Honestly, it’s lowkey harder to score down here [G League] at times,” Council said. “In the NBA, I feel like they really don’t wanna guard, especially somebody coming in like me who they don’t really know who it is. Down here, it’s a lot of good players who are trying to get to the league and a lot of guys with league potential, but the physicality and probably height difference is more at the NBA level.”

Now with the second leg of their back-to-back coming up tomorrow night, the message is simple.

“We gotta come out ready to play,” Longabardi said. “That team’s got a lot of firepower and their number one in the league in offense and you can tell why. We had a lot of mistakes and I thought they played very well, we got to come ready to play tomorrow for sure.”

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