Smyrna’s Caleb Matthews hit all six of his free throws in the final 39 seconds as the Eagles held off Sanford 47-45 to reach their second straight DIAA Boys Basketball Championship Game.
After being named Delaware’s Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year earlier in the day, Matthews went without a field goal in the first half, as the Eagles shot just 5-for-31 from the field (22.1%) and made just 1 of 16 three-pointers (8.3%), yet were only down 25-17 at halftime.
Nnanna Njoku set the tone for Sanford in the first half, with two monsterous jams and 11 points, while Jyare Davis scored 10, all in the second quarter.
Smyrna quickly seized the momentum early in the third quarter, breaking out an 11-2 run to start the half behind the play of Jaymeir Garnett and Nalik Veasley-Johnson, and the game was tight the rest of the way.
Matthews finally hit a three-pointer during that run, and hit another to match one by Isaiah Wilson as the Eagles snuck ahead 34-31 going into the final frame.
Corey Perkins’ three-pointer capped a 6-0 start to the quarter for Sanford, as they flipped that advantage to their side, only to see four lead changes and a tie in the final quarter.
Smyrna took the lead for good with 1:17 left, with Jaymeir Garnett’s putback on a fourth-chance opportunity pushed the Eagles ahead 41-39.
Sanford missed a lay-up on the other end, and Matthews began his work at the line.
After hitting two free throws, Sanford’s Davis hit a crushing right-handed slam, but it was only the pre-cursor to two more Matthews freebies.
Njoku again put the Warriors within 2 with a lay-up, but on a scrum on the inbound, the referees ruled that Matthews was fouled despite Greg Bloodsworth going to the ground, and Matthews again hit two free throws with 10 seconds left.
Sanford’s Hassan Perkins would hit one more lay-up, but without a timeout, and under five seconds left, Smyrna just let the clock run out, and celebrated the victory.
Matthews led Smyrna with 18 points, while Garnett added 12 points and 11 rebounds. They recovered to shoot over 40% in the second half after the tough start.
Davis scored 19 points, with Njoku adding 15 for Sanford, who surrendered 22 offensive rebounds to Smyrna while being outboarded 36-24.