Defense, free throws key Smyrna’s 50-45 road win over Sallies

Smyrna coach Andrew Mears

WILMINGTON — Smyrna High did not have the easiest time scoring against Salesianum School.

But the Eagles made sure to play good defense on the other end.

Smyrna was held to its lowest scoring output of the season and still earned a 50-45 victory over the Sals in a nonconference contest on the road Friday night. Smyrna won its fifth game in a row to move to 13-2 overall.

Sallies never led in the second half but closed Smyrna’s lead to one possession multiple times. Jaymeir Garnett and Nalik Veasley each came up with a clutch steal in the game’s final 1:30.

Smyrna converted six of its last seven free throw attempts to seal it.

“We knew if we could get one more stop we would like the result,” said Smyrna coach Andrew Mears. “We came up with some big plays and were fortunate enough to have some go our way at the end and then just finish it off from the free throw line.”

Garnett paced the Eagles with 16 points. He got off to a hot start, scoring Smyrna’s first nine points, four of which came on second-chance opportunities.

“It was a good start because I was hustling and able to get the rebounds,” Garnett said

Smyrna went on top 21-18 on a three-pointer by Isaiah Wilson late in the second quarter and did not trail after that.

The closest Sallies got was 43-42 with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

Greg Bloodsworth was shooting free throws for Smyrna and hit the first but missed the second. Caleb Matthews grabbed the offensive rebound, however, and kicked it back out to Bloodsworth.

Bloodsworth drove and found an open passing lane for Veasley who banked in a shot from underneath the basket to give the Eagles a four-point lead.

Matthews and Jakir Hampton combined to hit the final four free throws for Smyrna.

Smyrna’s frontcourt did the rest on the defensive end. After a block by Veasley and a steal by Garnett, the Eagles were celebrating another victory.

“The chemistry with us is definitely growing throughout the season,” said Garnett on Veasley. “We set screens for each other more, look for each other more and finish around the rim.”

Smyrna has won its last four matchups against Salesianum, including two on the road.

“It’s the best way to simulate the postseason,” Mears said. “It’s a great environment and a good matchup in Salesianum. This is what you potentially see in a second round matchup.”

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