Smyrna wins title game rematch: Unbeaten Eagles defeat Caravel again 74-63

Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews on a layup against Caravel in the first quarter at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — The stage was a little smaller, but this game was still very meaningful to the Smyrna High boys’ basketball players.

In a rematch of last year’s state title game, Smyrna again came out on top over Caravel.

Senior Caleb Matthews led all scorers with 26 points in a 74-63 victory for the Eagles on Thursday night. Smyrna remained unbeaten on the young season, improving to 4-0.

It was the first time the two teams have faced each other since Smyrna won its first state title 61-53 over the Buccaneers on March 11.

Matthews had 16 points that day and said he felt like he needed to do more in the rematch.

“It was a very important game for us,” Matthews said. “Especially for me, I didn’t feel like I played my best game in the state championship. I felt like I had to come out here and prove something.”

Smyrna won by double digits despite trailing by eight late in the first half.

The Eagles went on a 12-0 run in the final minutes of the second quarter to take a lead they would not relinquish. Matthews began the third quarter with a pair of threes and two free throws to score Smyrna’s first eight points of the second half.

Smyrna’s Nahshon Sylvester on a layup against Caravel in the first quarter at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“I’m a different player now,” Matthews said. “I’m more balanced. I can get to the rim a little bit better and find my teammates better. I think everything improved just a little bit but in the long run that can make a big difference.”

Caravel got within 47-44 at the end of the third quarter before Jakir Hampton drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 50-44 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

Smyrna outscored the Buccaneers 24-19 in the fourth.

“I think we outlasted them,” said Smyrna coach Andrew Mears. “We didn’t play our brand of basketball to start. We got caught up in some silly mistakes. Once we came out of halftime I feel like we started to play our brand of basketball and things came a little easier for us.”

The Eagles overcame seven turnovers in the first quarter alone which saw them down 17-16 at the end of the first.

Greg Bloodsworth scored 16 points for the Eagles while Nalik Veasley-Johnson chipped in 13. Both players are new to Smyrna. Bloodsworth was an All-State player at St. Thomas More a year ago before transferring while Veasley-Johnson’s family moved to Smyrna from North Carolina.

CaravelVsSmyrnaBoysBB3Smyrna’s Nalik Veasley-Johnson reaches for a rebound over Caravel’s Mandela Montgomery and Trevon Alderman in the first quarter at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Veasley-Johnson had a pair of key blocks on the defensive end while Smyrna extended its lead in the third quarter.

“He’s a great presence and has a high basketball IQ,” Mears said. “When he gets that motor going he’s pretty dominating inside.”

“He’s a great rebounder and if you throw it down to him he finishes,” Matthews said.

Jaymeir Garnett, the lone Smyrna player besides Matthews who played on last year’s state title team, scored nine points on Thursday.

Dwayne Earl paced Caravel with 23 points. Okoye Parker, who like Matthews made last year’s All-State First Team, scored 18 for the Buccaneers.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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