Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews confidently drained two free throws with just seconds left to help lift the Eagles over the Sanford Warriors, 47-45, Thursday night in the DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament Semifinals at the Bob Carpenter Center.
After a poor first half shooting, the Eagles rebounded in the second half advancing to Saturday’s DIAA State Championship Game with a chance to defend their title.
Tied 12-12 after one quarter, Sanford moved ahead of the Eagles in the second quarter, taking a 25-17 lead into the break.
The Eagles struggled in the opening half, shooting just 5-31 from the field, while the Warriors came out hot, shooting 11-20 in the first half behind Nnanna Njoku and Jyare Davis who combined for 21 of Sanford’s 25 points at halftime.
Trailing by seven to open the second half, Smyrna’s offense rallied off the first seven points of the half, eventually taking a three point lead, 34-31, heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Smyrna and Sanford went back and forth, trading baskets and making defensive stops, bringing things down to the final minute with game still very much up for grabs.
With under a minute to go, tied at 39-39, Jaymeir Garnett put the Eagles ahead, scoring on a put-back after a hard-fought offensive rebound.
Sanford would strike back thanks to a Njoku layup and the Eagles and Warriors were tied yet again, 41-41.
Still tied with just seconds to go, Matthews found himself at the charity stripe with an opportunity to put the Eagles back on top. The 2018 Delaware Gatorade Player of the Year stepped to the line and nailed both free-throws, essentially sealing things for the Eagles.
Matthew led the way for Smyrna, finishing with a team-high 18 points. Matthews was also perfect from the free throw line, hitting all 13 attempts.
Jaymeir Garnett also had a strong game for the Eagles, putting up 12 points in the low-scoring semifinal.
Davis was the game’s high-scorer, finishing with 19 points for the Warriors. Meanwhile, his Sanford teammate, Njoku, ended the game with 16 points.
The Eagles now move onto Saturday’s state title game where they’ll take on No. 9 St. Elizabeth who upset No. 5 Caravel Academy in the first semifinal matchup of the evening.
Smyrna and St. Elizabeth will play for the 2018 state title Saturday afternoon at noon; tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the Bob Carpenter Center beginning Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. or online at statechamps.com/DIAA.