This Friday night, the Smyrna Eagles will host a playoff game for the third consecutive season and for the second year in a row, they've earned a first-round bye in the DIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament.
The Eagles followed up last year’s 17-3 finish with a remarkable 18-2 mark this season, tied for the best record in the entire state with Woodbridge. Last week, Smyrna knocked off that same Blue Raiders squad to take the Henlopen Conference Championship.
Smyrna enters the postseason having not lost a game since four days after Christmas, winning 14 straight games since a 10 point loss to defending state champs Sanford on Dec. 29 at the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament.
The loss to the Warriors was the only defeat Smyrna suffered against a team from within the state, with their only other loss coming to Maryland’s Bishop McNamara.
Throughout the season, the Eagles displayed dominance on both sides of the court - doing so with a number of contributors pulling their weight each and every night.
“We have some tremendous players,” said Smyrna Head Coach Andrew Mears. “But, each one plays a certain role within the team. These guys have bought into their role and have each been a strong link in our team’s success.”
While their 56 points per game on offense places them in the middle of the pack among playoff teams, Smyrna’s superb defense made the difference in most games.
During the year, the Eagles allowed just 37 point per game against, second best in the state behind St. Mark’s (35 PPG allowed).
Even though the Eagles’ offense didn’t put up electric numbers, they rarely had to do so. Smyrna won games this season by an average of 22 points per game, with 14 of their 18 victories coming by double digits. Perhaps even more impressive, the Eagles won six games by 30 or more points this season.
Smyrna’s impressive regular season also came against some time flight opponents. Aside from going 13-0 against the Henlopen Conference, Smyrna was also 6-1 against teams that qualified for the state tournament.
During the year, the Eagles defeated William Penn, Milford, Salesianum, St. Elizabeth and both Caesar Rodney and Cape Henlopen twice.
With the first round of the state tournament kicking off on Wednesday night, the Eagles must wait until then to find out who they’ll be welcoming to their home floor on Friday night. It will be their first game in a week, which doesn’t concern Coach Mears.
“The full week is probably just what we need,” Mears said. “It allows us to refocus and improve each day. Our boys practice hard so I anticipate a solid week of practices.”
Smyrna will host the winner of Wednesday night’s battle between No. 12 Milford v. No. 21 Red Lion.
While Smyrna did not play Red Lion during the regular season, they did defeat the Buccaneers on the road, 63-41, back in late December.
Regardless of their opponent Friday, the Eagles hope this is the first step toward a long tournament run.
“I believe this team is capable of competing at the highest of levels,” Mears said. “Whoever the opponent, our guys will play with passion and intensity. The only thing we can control is the next team on the schedule and that comes Friday.”