Smyrna falls to St. Andrew’s in DIAA state tournament

SMYRNA — At halftime, the DIAA first-round state tournament contest between Smyrna High and St. Andrew’s school was anyone’s game.

Then St. Andrew’s caught fire from the field. The Eagles could not hit enough shots to keep pace.

That second half surge carried the 18th-seeded Saints over No. 15 Smyrna High 66-57 in the boys’ basketball state tournament’s opening round. Smyrna ended its season with a 15-6 record.

Smyrna was playing its first game since Feb. 18 — a layoff of exactly two weeks. Coach Andrew Mears thinks that had something to do with Smyrna’s shooting performance.

The Eagles went 20-of-55 on their field goal attempts (36 percent).

“They weren’t dropping,” Mears said. “I feel like there was some rust. We had some good practices the last two weeks, really grinded, but you can’t simulate a real game. There was some rust which held us back.”

“But you definitely have to give props to St. Andrew’s,” Mears said. “They made some big-time shots. They deserved it. They were better than us tonight.”

St. Andrew’s, the small boarding school located in Middletown, advanced to play No. 2 seed William Penn on Thursday in the second round (7 p.m.).

The Saints improved to 15-6 overall.

“The way our schedule is set up you don’t get to see us a lot,” said St. Andrew’s coach Terell Myers. “Right now, we’ve missed 38 days of practice because of vacation. Our school is actually on vacation right now. We’re off in the back in Middletown so people don’t get the opportunity to see us play a lot. But you got a bunch of tough kids that gel together and care about each other. When you have something like that, this is the result.”

St. Andrew’s was led by Frank Klobish and Brandon Graves who each netted 17 points. Klobish converted on five three-point attempts.

Klobish made three consecutive three-pointers to highlight St. Andrew’s decisive 17-3 run in the third quarter which turned a 20-19 halftime lead into a 37-22 advantage.

“We have a well-balanced team,” Myers said. “We try to make sure we find the open guy.”

Lamar Duncan added 14 points for St. Andrew’s. Adrian Watts, the son of former Caesar Rodney High standout Aubrey Watts, scored 13 points of his own.

St. Andrew’s played a high-pressure extended zone defense to trap Smyrna which contributed to throwing Smyrna off its rhythm.

“They’re definitely more athletic so we tried to slow them down,” Myers said. “Our guys were very aggressive and it seemed to work. We had a lot of energy, communicated well and played a very good game.”

Smyrna was paced by Izaiah Credle’s 21 points. Brandon Smith followed with 18, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter, and Elijah Credle had 10 points.

While the defeat stings, Mears credited this group for battling back to make the state tournament after an 8-12 record a year ago which saw the Eagles miss the postseason.

“Only one time finishes the season with a win and everybody else ends in heartbreak,” Mears said. “We put together a good season, one to be proud of. I’m just really proud of our guys from the turnaround from last year to this year. Our senior leadership was the key to that.

“It’s a tough one to go out on,” Mears added. “But it’s still a season to be tremendously proud of which is a credit to our seniors.”