Smyrna boys rally to edge Ravens 63-54 in hoop opener

Smyrna’s Olumuyiwa Salako dunks the ball against Sussex Tech in the first quarter of Friday night’s game at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — Heading into the fourth quarter, it was anyone’s game.

In a span of just over three minutes, Smyrna High turned a slim two-point lead into a double-digit advantage.

From there, the Eagles hit a handful of free throws down the stretch to cruise to a 63-54 season-opening boys’ basketball victory over Sussex Tech High Friday night.

“I just told them to be who they were,” Smyrna coach Andrew Mears said of his pep talk prior to the fourth quarter. “This was our first game, so we knew we had to weather the storm.

“We knew Tech would be fired up after their first game, so we expected a fight. I just wanted our guys to play to who they were, don’t do anything out of the ordinary, and just trust what we’ve been doing so far.”

A 15-0 fourth quarter run helped Smyrna pull away with the Henlopen Conference Northern Division victory, dropping the Ravens to 0-2. The win also avenges a 67-54 road loss to Tech late last January.

The Eagles’ Izaiah Credle shoots the ball against the Ravens’ Cameron Daniels in the first quarter.

Smyrna (1-0), led by 12-point games from junior guard Elijah Credle and junior forward Olumuyiwa Salako, will travel to Dover High for another early-season conference showdown next Tuesday.

“We didn’t give up, we trusted each other, and we just did what we do to get the win,” said sophomore forward Elisha Gregory.

Robert Wiley added nine points, while Nahshon Sylvester (seven), Majesti Carter (seven), Gregory (six), Izaiah Credle (six) and Brandon Smith (four) rounded out the Smyrna offensive production.

Salako and Wiley combined for 15 of Smyrna’s 22 fourth-quarter points. Carter scored five of his seven points in those final eight minutes, including a three-pointer that broke the game open for the Eagles at the 6:59 mark.

Senior Ja’Shaun Johnson paced the Tech offense, putting up a game-high 24 points, with teammate Skylar Johnson adding 17 and Devon Reynolds dropping eight.

Smyrna’s Brandon Smith shoots the ball against Sussex Tech defenders in the first quarter.

“We just had to stop No. 2 (Skylar Johnson) and No. 5 (Devon Reynolds) and play heavy help on both of them, and it worked,” Elijah Credle said of the fourth quarter. “We boxed out, we got rebounds and pushed up the floor and got what we wanted … that’s really it. And we hit free throws.”

The first two quarters featured evenly-matched, fast-paced offenses, with the two sides trading momentum.

The Eagles held the early momentum, but Sussex Tech led 14-11 at the end of the first as the two Johnsons combining for nine of those 14 for the Ravens.

That momentum carried over into the second quarter as Tech led all eight minutes, jumping ahead by as many as eight at one point. It was just a 25-22 Tech advantage at the break.

Trailing 37-30 midway through the third quarter, Smyrna went on an 11-3 run to end the quarter and snag the 41-39 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Smyrna’s Elijah Credle shoots the ball against Sussex Tech’s Ja’Shaun Johnson in the first quarter at Smyrna.

Skylar Johnson knotted the game at 41 just 16 seconds into the fourth, but the Eagles responded with a 15-0 run over the next four minutes to grab control of the tempo and the double-digit lead with 3:26 remaining.

Smyrna knocked down seven of their 11 fourth quarter free throw attempts to close out the victory. Overall, the Eagles finished 16-of-24 from the free throw line.

Tech drained nine of 14 attempts from the line.

“I knew we would be competitive; I knew we’d be fired up tonight, but we’ve got a lot of respect for that other team — we knew that they’d bring everything they’ve got tonight and they did,” said Mears.

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