Smyrna boys, Sussex Tech girls win Henlopen hoop crowns

Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews leans on Woodbridge’s Hassan Corbin in the second quarter at Dover during .Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — No one would have been surprised if Smyrna High’s players were simply running out of gas.

After all, the Eagles were playing their second big game in two nights.

Smyrna’s Nalik Veasley-Johnson shoots against Woodbridge’s Hassan Corbin in the first quarter at Dover during .Delaware State News/Marc Clery

And stubborn Woodbridge had just reeled off 10 straight points to tie Friday night’s Henlopen Conference boys’ basketball championship game late in the third quarter.

But Smyrna was just getting its second wind,

The Eagles dominated the fourth quarter before posting a 65-49 victory over the Blue Raiders to claim their second straight Henlopen crown before a big crowd at Dover High.

In the girls’ title game, Sussex Tech downed Woodbridge, 73-39, to capture the program’s first Henlopen championship.

Smyrna boys’ coach Andrew Mears said his players didn’t panic when Woodbridge knotted the score at 41-41 with 27.1 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Eagles (19-3) had to beat Cape Henlopen in a North playoff game on Thursday night just to make it into Friday’s title game.

“I think these guys respond a little bit better when the pressure’s on,” said Mears. “They don’t panic. That’s what I appreciate best. Sometimes I feel like I panic inside.

“But these guys just kind of weather the storm. They kind of reassert themselves. It’s usually these guys just need to get back to who we are.”

Smyrna’s Gregory Bloodsworth shoots over Woodbridge in the first quarter at Dover during .Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Nalik Veasey-Johnson picked up a loose ball and scored inside with a couple seconds left in the third quarter to give the Eagles the lead for good at 43-41.

Smyrna ended up netting 24 of the contest’s final 32 points in topping Woodbridge (14-7) for the second straight year in the Henlopen title game.

Junior forward Jaymeir Garnett scored eight of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter.

“It was a tough start at first,” he said. “We were tired. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got to fight through it. That’s the type of team we are.”

“We made sure we were ready for this game,” said senior guard Greg Bloodsworth. “We had to be patient, stay calm and get to our bigs on the inside and let them go to work.”

Smyrna had four players score in double figures: Garnett, Caleb Matthews (15), Veasey-Johnson (13) and Bloodsworth (13).

The Raiders got a big game from senior Hassan Corbin, who tallied a game-high 28 points.

Corbin scored Woodbridge’s first 15 points of the game, including all 12 of the Raiders’ first-quarter points. He had 20 by halftime as Woodbridge trailed just 29-26.

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.

The two teams might very well meet again on Thursday in the second round of the DIAA state tournament. The 14th-seeded Raiders host No. 19 Indian River in Tuesday’s first round with the winner playing at No. 3 Smyrna on Thursday.

Woodbridge’s Kejon Mosley shoots against Smyrna’s Jakir Hampton the second quarter at Dover during .Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The same thing happened last year. The Eagles beat Woodbridge in the Henlopen title game and then in the state quarterfinals.

This was a grueling week for Smyrna, which played three games in four days. The Eagles started the week by losing to William Penn on Tuesday,

Mears hoped that stretch has toughened up his players as they try to make a run at a second straight state crown.

“What will help us is this weekend, getting a little bit of rest,” he said. “But you can’t dial up this same type of intensity and focus in practice all the time. So be able to do it this week with William Penn, Cape and Woodbridge, that’s the best type of momentum you can ask for going into the tournament.”

GIRLS, Sussex Tech 73, Woodbridge 39: Five players scored in double figures for the North champion Ravens in their title game victory.

Janiya Stevens, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, led Sussex Tech (18-3) with 15 points.

“It’s something we’ve been working hard all year for,” she said. “So it’s a dream come true at this point.”

Mi’Cah Shelton added 13 points with Arnaisa Taylor, Airelle Parker and Jayla Mullen all scoring 11. Sussex Tech led only 6-5 before running off the next 14 points to take control.

The Ravens led 40-17 at halftime.

This is Justin Davis’ first season as Sussex Tech’s head coach — although he had been an assistant to his father, Chester, for the past 18 years at a few different schools. Davis was named the girls’ Henlopen Coach of the Year on Friday.

“Dad and I just kind of swapped spots,” joked Davis, whose father is one of his assistants.

“There are no easy routes to the Bob (Carpenter Center),” said Davis, looking ahead to the state tournament. “But we got there last year. We’re playing pretty well right now so hopefully we can keep it going and try to make a run.”

Woodbridge (16-5) was paced by 14 points from Janeira Scott — including 10-of-15 shooting from the foul line — and 12 from Cha’Kya Johnson.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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