CAMDEN — Latrelle Lee made a conscious decision in the fourth quarter.
He was either getting a layup or going to the free throw line.
It worked out for the Smyrna High senior as he scored 10 of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Eagles won at Caesar Rodney High, 50-46, in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division boys’ basketball contest on Friday night.
“The dude knows how to play some ball,” said Smyrna coach Andrew Mears. “He turned it on for us at the end. Those free throws were some clutch moments.”
Lee tied the game at 38-38 on a layup which sparked a stretch where he scored Smyrna’s next eight points. He knocked down four free throws before he was at the line with a one-point lead and 2:49 remaining.
He missed the foul shot but the rebound was tipped right to him. He took a dribble and finished a layup off the backboard with his right hand to give Smyrna a 44-41 lead.
The Riders missed a jumper on the other end and Ja’vier Worthy buried a three-pointer from the right wing for Smyrna (6-4 North, 12-5 overall) on the next possession to put the Eagkes up six.
CR sophomore Jaquan Hooks made it a one-possession game with a three-pointer with a minute to go and the Riders missed two chances to tie after getting a steal. Lee hit two free throws and Markell Green made one to seal it for the Eagles.
“I had to step up and knock down some free throws to get my team the win,” Lee said. “We were trying to get to the line and finish.”
“‘Survive’ is probably the best word for this win,” Mears said. “It showed our group can fight through some things.”
Smyrna avenged a 54-51 home loss to the Riders in the season opener. CR had won the last three meetings between the two teams.
“Freeman Williams runs a very good program here at CR so we knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle,” Mears said. “We knew it was going to take all four quarters. We wanted to get this series back to 1-1 and make sure we split this season with them.”
“We’re a better team than we were then because we’ve improved through the season,” Lee said. “In the first game, we weren’t on track as much as we are now.”
Smyrna lead for most of the game until CR’s Kashwon Davis made a layup with 1:31 left in the third quarter to put the Riders ahead 31-30. It was the Riders’ first lead since it was 1-0.
Davis extended the lead on the next possession by grabbing a rebound for a putback bucket. The Riders got another basket from freshman Davione Robinson to finish a 6-0 run and take a 36-30 lead with time winding down in the third.
Worthy cut that lead in half by pulling up and knocking down a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter. Hooks responded for CR with a steal and a layup to begin the fourth and put the Riders up by four.
But Charlie Taylor converted a layup and was fouled, hitting the resulting free throw to finish off the three-point play for Smyrna before Lee’s eight-point run.
Taylor finished with seven points. The Eagles needed contributions from their bench with Worthy and Lee in foul trouble for most of the second and third quarters, plus senior Stedman Kpana was sidelined for the sixth game in a row with an injury.
“You can call them role players but every time their number is called they go in and give 110 percent,” Mears said. “Anthony Watson and Markell Green gave us some really solid minutes. Markell ended up shooting probably the most important free throw here tonight.”
Donte Ritchie was the second leading scorer for Smyrna with nine. Worthy ended up with eight.
Smyrna led by as much as 13 in the first half, but the Riders closed the gap with a 13-2 run at the end of the second quarter.
CR was paced by Robinson’s 15 points. The Riders, who play four sophomores and two freshmen, are 4-6 in the North and 7-11 overall with two games left in the season.
“I think they’ve played like typical young kids,” Williams said. “You’ll see glimpses of some really nice things but you’ll also see some mistakes. The key is to keep working at it, keep listening and keep working at what we’re trying to do. We don’t make excuses. It’s just a matter of all of them getting to the standard of what Rider basketball is. I’m proud of how hard we’re playing, I just want us to take care of the little things.”
Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 741-8224. Follow @TimMastroDSN on Twitter.