Eagles look impressive in 53-40 triumph over Salesianum


Photos Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

SMYRNA — Even when his Smyrna High boys’ basketball team was winning its first five games, Andrew Mears knew the Eagles weren’t there yet. They had too many new faces in the lineup.

It was going to take some time for Smyrna to really hit its stride.

“We had some talent but we were just so new with each other,” said Mears, the Eagles’ coach. “A couple wins early kind of masked our chemistry issues. (But) I think, over the course of the season. we’re starting to see some of that stuff develop.”

Smyrna looked pretty impressive at times on Tuesday night in dispatching Salesianum, 53-40, in a nonconference showdown.

With junior guard Caleb Matthews pouring in a game-high 23 points, Smyrna (8-2) trailed only in the opening minutes against the Sals (5-4), who are two years removed from winning back-to-back state titles.

The Eagles led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, by 22 in the third quarter and by 20 in the fourth quarter as they won their third straight game since losing twice at Slam Dunk to the Beach.

“I think we moved the ball and played unselfishly,” said Matthews. “And our defense was great.

“I think they played pretty good defense. (But) when we move the ball like that, I don’t see anybody being able to stop us defensively.”

“I liked how we played when we played our brand of basketball,” said Mears.

Matthews was particularly impressive. The 6-foot-3 junior buried five of Smyrna’s seven three-pointers and had probably six assists while running the Eagles’ offense.

Matthews missed only a couple shots while making very few mistakes.

Salesianum coach Brendan Haley said the goal was to stick with Matthews no matter where he went on the court. But he said Smyrna did a good job of freeing up Matthews enough to get his shot off.

“He showed how good he is tonight,” said Haley. “He got his points and his assists and wasn’t throwing the ball around the yard or trying to force things that weren’t there. He played the game really well.”

“As well as he scores, he also sees the floor extremely well, which is incredibly valuable” said Mears.

Haley was also impressed with Azubuike Nwankwo, Smyrna’s 7-foot-2 first-year transfer. The junior center collected 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Sallies’ coach said Nwankwo has gotten better just since he saw him play against Sanford at Slam Dunk to the Beach a couple weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Nwankwo was going up against the Sals’ 6-foot-8, 220-pound sophomore, Tariq Ingraham.

“He effected the game in a big way,” said Haley. “He had Tariq probably thinking a little too much out there and hesitant. And who can blame him? The kid’s 7-2.

“Andrew (Mears) does a great job and he (Nwankwo) is getting better and better. He’s going to be a nightmare for a couple years.”

That’s the exciting thing said Mears. While Nwankwo still has a long way to go, particularly on offense, the ceiling on his potential is still so high.

“It’s almost every day we see something different out of him,” said Mears. “He’s improving, whether it’s one-on-one drills in practice or some five-on-five drills. Every single time we find ways in which he’s getting stronger and smarter with the basketball.

“It definitely changes things. It’s not just the size but the prescence that he brings. When he turns his motor on, he definitely can change things at both ends. He doesn’t want to let the team down.”

Free throws

After a 34-point loss to Sallies in 2014, the Eagles have won three straight over the Sals. The last two wins, however, came by a total of only three points. … Dymer’e Richardson had Smyrna’s other two three-pointers, finishing with eight points. … The Eagles still have nonconference games left with Concord, St. Elizabeth and A.I. duPont. … Sallies has lost four of its last five games after a 4-0 start.

 

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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