Salako’s buzzer putback gives Smyrna win over Caesar Rodney

Smyrna’s Brandon Smith tries to shoot against Caesar Rodney’s Jaelin Joyner in the second quarter at CR. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — Olumuyiwa “Moo” Salako had the ball in his hands, five seconds left on the clock and his Smyrna High team down by a point.

He took a quick look around and realized all of his teammates were covered.

So Salako only had one option.

“I was just looking for the best shot,” he said. “I turned around and knew the only way I could get it was to get to the rim.”

Salako’s putback off his own miss beat the buzzer to give Smyrna a 58-57 victory at Caesar Rodney High in a thrilling Henlopen Conference Northern Division boys’ basketball contest on Tuesday night. It moved the Eagles to 14-4 overall (11-2 Henlopen North).

Smyrna was inbounding the ball under its own basket with 5.4 seconds remaining after the Riders had taken the lead.

Coach Andrew Mears called for a play where the Eagles had multiple options to inbound the ball to. With everyone else guarded tightly, Salako was open to received the ball near the free throw line.

Salako dribble three-quarters of the length of the court where his contested layup attempt bounced off the front rim. But it ricocheted right back to him where his follow-up was able to fall through before the buzzer sounded.

“CR did such a good job defending it, we went to our last option,” Mears said. “That was Moo just kind of making a read and making a play.”

The Smyrna junior was still in position after his miss to be able to leap in the air again and drop the ball through the net before his feet touched the floor. He was soon mobbed in celebration by his teammates and Smyrna students who rushed the floor near midcourt.

“My mentality is no one should get the rebound over me,” Salako said. “Every ball is mine. I just want to get my team as many possessions as possible.”

“It speaks volumes to what that kid is,” Mears said. “He’s all effort, doesn’t quit. He’s always doing the right thing. Moo gets his winning around the glass. That’s what he does all year, it just so happens this time it was for the game-winner.”

Salako said it was the second time in his life he’s hit a buzzer-beater to win a game. The only other time happened so long ago in youth basketball he couldn’t remember how old he was.

Caesar Rodney’s Jaelin Joyner shoots a layup against Smyrna’s Olumuyiwa Salako in the first quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“This one is definitely a bigger deal,” he laughed. “It feels great. I knew going into the game it was going to be a game that came down to the last buzzer. It was up to us to push through.”

This was the second meeting between the two teams and the second to come down to the closing seconds.

Smyrna defeated the Riders 59-57 on Jan. 21 on a Brandon Smith layup with less than five seconds to go.

For a brief moment, it looked like Caesar Rodney was about to pay back the Eagles. Jaelin Joyner’s layup off a Braxton Robinson assist pushed CR ahead 57-56 before Salako’s heroics.

There were six lead changes between the two teams in the final 2:40. Salako had also given Smyrna the lead with 37 seconds left, before Joyner’s basket, with another putback.

“We’re not a very big team but we make up for that with some guards that love to rebound,” Mears said. “We always talk about finishing the possession. Rebounding is just in our DNA, we might not have the measurements, but the guys know they’re expected to rebound.”

Salako finished with nine points, one away from being the fourth Eagle in double figures. Smith was the top scorer on the night for Smyrna with 14 points.

Elijah Credle added 11 points while Nahshon Sylvester had 10. Izaiah Credle chipped in eight points.

Kamal Marvel paced the Riders (9-4 North, 12-6 overall) with 14 points. Syed Myles scored 12, Robinson 11 and Elijah Booker 10.

“As hungry as we were to win, I can imagine CR was just as hungry,” Mears said. “We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game and it would come down to a few possessions. Luckily, that last possession went our way.”