The DIAA state tournament is familiar territory for the Smyrna High boys’ basketball team. The Eagles have qualified for the postseason with regularity in recent years, including last season, but that tournament run was cut short with a loss in the first round. Now the goal is to make it back to the tourney, and to make it further this time. The Eagles are set to begin the 2008-09 season with a home game against Polytech on Friday, December 5.
The DIAA state tournament is familiar territory for the Smyrna High boys’ basketball team.
The Eagles have qualified for the postseason with regularity in recent years, including last season, but that tournament run was cut short with a loss in the first round.
Now the goal is to make it back to the tourney, and to make it further this time.
Smyrna head coach Mike Starkey knows his team hasn’t forgotten last year’s loss to Concord in the first round.
“They’ll be looking to avenge that, I’m sure, and get past the first round,” he said.
But first things first. Starkey said the Eagles’ number one goal will be to compete for a division title in the Henlopen North.
The Northern Division is always tough, with five or six teams that can beat each other on any given night, Starkey said. This year, Polytech and Caesar Rodney look especially strong, he said.
Smyrna returns several experienced players from last year’s squad, but the varsity roster also features a handful of newcomers.
“We have a lot of guys back, but we also have a lot of new pieces as well,” Starkey said.
One of Smyrna’s key returning players is Paul Reynolds, who is back for his senior season after leading the team in scoring last year.
Reynolds said the Eagles are focused on improving their teamwork and bringing the new players up to speed as they get ready for the season.
“Our team goal is to win a conference championship and have a good season,” he said. “We want to get further in the tournament and hopefully play together as a team.”
Reynolds said he’s ready for the season to begin.
“I can’t wait to get it started,” he said.
Chris Oscar, a junior, is also back to set up the Eagles’ attack.
He said the team is focused on going far in the playoffs this year and trying to get to “The Bob.”
Teams that reach the quarterfinals of the DIAA basketball tournament play at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.
“Working hard and playing together – that’s what’s going to get us far,” Oscar said. “When we’re all playing together we’re hard to stop. We’re anxious to show everyone what we’ve got.”
Smyrna High senior Hugo Johnson will bring some added experience to this year’s team, as well as lots of hustle and aggressive defense.
“We’ve got a lot of returners back, so I think we’ve got a strong team this year,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of focus. We practice really hard.”
“We’ve got to stay a team and not let anything break our bond,” he said.
Last week, Coach Starkey said the team’s starting lineup was not yet locked in, but he did say he wanted to see some more balance from the team this year.
Starkey said Reynolds will lead the Eagles in the scoring department in most games.
“He’s a superstar, but he doesn’t have that superstar mentality,” Starkey said. “He’s not selfish. He’s a great teammate, and that’s what we love about him.”
But Starkey also wants some other players to step up this season.
Starkey also noted that a freshman, Andre Gibbs, made the varsity team. Starkey said he’s pulled freshmen up to varsity in mid-season before, but this will be the first time he starts a season with a freshman on the varsity squad.
The Eagles will begin the season on Friday, December 5 with a home game against Northern Division rival Polytech.
Next week, Smyrna will host Cape Henlopen on December 9 and visit Sussex Tech on December 12.
Coaching staff: head coach Mike Starkey, assistant coaches Kyle Gebhart and Andrew Mears, J.V. coach Mike Marks
Varsity roster: Hugo Johnson (Sr.), Eli Princilus (Sr.), Chris Harmon (Sr.), Jon Storck (Sr.), Paul Reynolds (Sr.), Deondre Taylor (Sr.), Matt Storck (Jr.), Amir Goher (Jr.), Chris Oscar (Jr.), Bradley Forrest-Jones (Jr.), Derrick Boyd (So.) and Andre Gibbs (Fr.)
2008-09 SHS varsity boys’ basketball schedule*
Dec. 5 Polytech
Dec. 9 Cape Henlopen
Dec. 12 at Sussex Tech
Dec. 16 Sussex Central
Dec. 19 at Caesar Rodney
Dec. 26 Wicomico at UMES (5:30 pm.)
Dec. 30 Friendship Collegiate Academy at Wicomico (4 p.m.)
Jan. 6 Dover
Jan. 8 Laurel
Jan. 13 at Polytech
Jan. 16 at Indian River
Jan. 20 at Woodbridge
Jan. 23 at Seaford
Jan. 27 Lake Forest
Jan. 30 Milford
Feb. 3 at Delmar
Feb. 5 at Cape Henlopen
Feb. 10 Sussex Tech
Feb. 13 at Sussex Central
Feb. 17 Caesar Rodney
Feb. 20 at Dover
Feb. 23 Archmere Academy
*Home games in bold. All games tip off at 7:15 p.m. unless otherwise noted.