SMYRNA — While Smyrna High made it to the boys’ basketball state quarterfinals last season, the Eagles felt like they missed out on part of the experience.
Due to a scheduling issue, the quarterfinals were held at neutral sites — not the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center as is the usual tradition.
So at the beginning of the year, this group of Eagles set out not only to return to the quarterfinals, but to reach ‘the Bob’ for their first time.
That goal was reached Friday night as No. 5 seed Smyrna punched its ticket to the quarterfinals with a 64-51 victory over No. 12 Appoquinimink. Senior Ja’vier Worthy led the Eagles with 22 points and sophomore Caleb Matthews added 13.
Smyrna (18-3) will play the fourth seed, Mount Pleasant (18-3), at the Carpenter Center in Newark at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Coincidentally, it was the Green Knights who eliminated Smyrna from the quarterfinals last season in a game played at Newark High.
“It’s been a tough journey,” Worthy said. “After that Mount game, we were right back in the gym. We were focused on getting back to where we were and making history. It killed us last year. This year we knew nothing was going to stop us from getting to the Bob.”
Smyrna never trailed in the contest and led by as much as 15.
Senior Charlie Taylor and junior Dymer’e Richardson each netted eight points for the Eagles. Freshman Jaymeir Garnett contributed seven points off the bench.
“It’s really special because we’ve been working so hard all year,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure that we got back to at least where we were last year and hopefully go farther and maybe even bring the whole thing back to Smyrna.”
Despite the Eagles having a comfortable lead for most of the second half, Appoquimink did give them a scare in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars began the fourth with seven unanswered points to pull within 45-39. Worthy answered by taking the ball inside.
He scored the next six points for Smyrna, all on baskets from underneath the hoop.
“I want to make sure my team knows I’m there when they need me,” Worthy said. “Because they’re always there when I need them.”
Taylor padded the lead with a double-pump layup in traffic to go up 54-41. After two free throws by Appoquinimink, Richardson buried a three on the next possession.
Worthy then knocked down a pair of free throws as the Eagles converted eight of their last 10 attempts from the foul line to close the game.
“We’re going to live or die on the shoulders of our seniors,” said Smyrna coach Andrew Mears. “They definitely prevailed.”
“All offseason we talked about getting back to this spot and getting to the Bob,” Mears added. “I’m just very proud of the guys who were able to collectively get it done.”