Jaymeir Garnett scores 28 to lead Eagles to first boys basketball state championship in school history

Smyrna High School defeated Caravel Academy 61-53 this afternoon to win the first boys basketball state title in the school's history.

In front of a crowd of 3,104 at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center, the Eagles jumped out to an early 14-5 advantage after one quarter. 

In the second, Caravel tried to keep pace, but the Eagles were up to the challenge, leading 29-21 at the halftime break. 

Caravel came out for the second half ready to get back into the game, scoring the first six points of the third quarter. Down the stretch, the Bucs scored six of the last eight points in the third to cut the Smyrna lead to just three, 39-36, heading into the fourth and final quarter. 

Early in the fourth, Caravel continued to chip away at the Smyrna lead, eventually tying things up at 41-41 with just over six minutes to go. 

After gaining another three-point advantage, Smyrna went on a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach. 

After Smyrna had built several comfortable leads throughout the game, Caravel battled back late. However, the Eagles didn't panic and continued to play their game until the final buzzer. 

"We didn't make too many adjustments," said Smyrna Head Coach Andrew Mears. "We just tried to weather the storm and ultimately we made enough plays to keep it in our hands." 

Smyrna's leading scorer on Saturday afternoon, Jaymeir Garnett, echoed his coach's thoughts, saying the team had been in that situation many times before. 

"They were getting some good shots off. We wanted to slow it down and play more with the bigs down low," Garnett said. "Through the season, we've been through that. It was just another game."

Garnett led Smyrna in scoring with 28 points, going 14-of-20 from the field. The sophomore also had 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. 

Caleb Matthews poured in 16 points and had a team-high seven assists along with three blocks.

Zubui Nwankwo grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds and had eight points, three blocks and three assists for the Eagles.

Smyrna dominated the glass, out-rebounding Caravel 43-28 and held the Bucs to 34 percent shooting from the field.

"It's been our characteristic all year long," said Mears about the team's size advantage over Caravel. "All we can do is take advantage as best we can."

"We're a balanced team because we're so unselfish. As long as we win, everyone is happy," Mears continued. "I think we set the tone, trying to limit their possessions as best we could."

After several deep runs in the state tournament the last few seasons, Smyrna is finally on top of the state's basketball mountain, capping off a remarkable season. 

"We had great pieces," Garnett said. "All the pieces played well and we just worked hard." 

"It's great," said Mears. "I look at the guys who invested so much into the program. Some of these guys have put in four years. That's what I'm most proud of." 

State tournament run

The Eagles finished the regular season 18-2 and defeated Woodbridge in the Henlopen Conference championship game.

Smyrna was seeded No. 5 in the 24-team state tournament and received a first-round bye.

In the second round, Smyrna defeated No. 12 Milford, 71-38. Then the Eagles knocked off No. 4 Woodbridge 63-51 in the quarterfinals.

In Thursday night's semifinals, the Eagles pulled away from No. 9 St. Georges Tech in the second half for a 51-32 victory to advance to the championship game. St. Georges Tech had upset the tournament's top seed, Mt. Pleasant, in the quarterfinals.

Caravel was the Cinderella story of the tournament, coming in as the No. 19 seed and knocking off No. 3 Salesianum and No. 2 St. Thomas More on its way to the championship.

With the win over Caravel in the title game, the Eagles finished their magical season 23-2, winning their last 18 games in a row including one forfeit victory over A.I. du Pont. After falling to Sanford on Dec. 29 at the Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament, Smyrna didn't lose a game in 2017.