Eagles aim to make deeper tourney run in boys’ hoops

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Smyrna senior Ja’Vier Worthy and his teammates are determined to make another postseason run. (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — A year ago, they were so close to accomplishing something really big.

Early in the fourth quarter of their state tournament quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 Mount Pleasant, Smyrna High’s boys’ basketball players held a three-point lead on the Green Knights.

And, despite all the program’s success over the years, the Eagles have never reached the state Final Four.

But the Green Knights kept Smyrna from the semifinals again, rallying for a 53-42 victory.

“I felt like we could have left the gym with that win,” said senior Ja’Vier Worthy. “But we knew in our heads that next year we could go farther. We were back in the gym the next day.”

Now ‘next year’ is this year and the Eagles say they’re as determined as ever to make another run in the state tournament.

Smyrna basketball coach Mears by .

“I think this group remains just as hungry as we were last year,” Smyrna coach Andrew Mears said. “I’m excited to see how we transform.” (Delaware State News file photo)

So far, so good. Smyrna is 2-0 going into today’s 7:15 p.m. Henlopen Northern Division matchup at Caesar Rodney.

The Eagles lost only three seniors from last year’s roster, the most notable of which was honorable mention All-Stater Latrelle Lee.

Worthy, though, was a second-team all-Henlopen North pick. He’s one of six seniors on this year’s squad.

But that’s not to say Smyrna hasn’t evolved since last year’s 17-6 campaign.

“Though we do have a lot back from last year, they’re a very different squad,” said coach Andrew Mears. “There’s a couple new additions. I think also, now that the junior group from last year are seniors, it just has a different feel. The have sort of their own personality. It’s a nice difference.”

Some of the seniors have played together since they were in middle school.

Besides Worthy, point guard Charlie Taylor, center Jerry Williams and Donte Ritchie are all returning starters. All four players are seniors.

“We’ve had that chemistry since middle school,” said Worthy. “We’ve got that drive to be good in high school.

“Everybody plays hard, everybody’s a team player. We all work together. Everybody has the same goals.”

One of Smyrna’s newcomers, freshman Jaymeir Garnett, already made a big impact when he tipped in a shot at the buzzer to give the Eagles a dramatic 58-57 victory at William Penn last week. Sophomore shooting guard Caleb Matthews will also play a bigger role this season.

Smyrna missed the state tourney in back-to-back seasons before last year’s trip to the quarterfinals. Mears hopes his players haven’t forgotten what it took to get there.

“Last year I felt like we exceeded a lot of people’s expectations,” he said. “But the quarterfinals were always part of our goal.

“This year, with a lot of guys coming back, we want to get there again. We have a couple pieces that remember how to get there so I think that could be beneficial. One thing that our guys do have is confidence but yet they’re also very humble. From a coaching standpoint, it’s a great combination to have.

“I think this group remains just as hungry as we were last year,” Mears added. “I’m excited to see how we transform.”

Of course, Taylor and Ritchie were both key members of Smyrna’s football team, which won the school’s first state title in the sport a couple weeks ago.

Worthy said the Eagles hope all that excitement generated in the fall will carry over to basketball this winter.

“Everybody’s expecting us to do the same thing they did,” he said. “We’ve got to fill those shoes. It’s kind of exciting because the energy and the support they got, we want to feel that same way.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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