SMYRNA — Twice during the regular season the Sussex Tech girls’ basketball came up short against Smyrna High by just a few points.
But when the brackets for the DIAA state tournament were released, the Ravens were given one more chance at Smyrna.
They didn’t let it go to waste.
Sussex Tech avenged those two losses with a 46-36 victory on Tuesday night at Smyrna in a first round contest. The 17th-seeded Ravens (12-9) now advance to play at top seed Ursuline Academy (15-5) on Thursday (7 p.m.).
“I think we wanted this victory more,” said Sussex Tech senior guard Heaven Carter. “The past two times were extremely close games and we just couldn’t finish it out. We came ready to play tonight.”
It was the first playoff win for Sussex Tech since the first round in 2013.
Smyrna, seeded 16th, ended its season at 10-11.
The Eagles had won the previous 17 meetings between the two squads dating back to 2008. But the Ravens were encouraged by their two narrow losses against Smyrna this season.
The first was the second game of the year when Sussex Tech only lost by two in overtime. Smyrna knocked off the Ravens later in the year at Sussex Tech, but it was only a three-point game.
Sussex Tech Chester Davis said in that second meetings, Smyrna out-rebounded Sussex Tech 58-31. On Tuesday, the Ravens won the rebounding margin by one.
“That was the difference,” Davis said. “Despite our bigs being in foul trouble in the second quarter, our bench which has been a blessing held the lead for us going into halftime.”
Carter paced Sussex Tech with nine points, Rukiya Davis added eight and Madeline Morris chipped in seven. Kara Hignutt helped the Ravens grab the lead in the early going with all six of her points coming in the first quarter.
Smyrna’s Melena Credle was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points.
Sussex Tech led 12-7 after the first quarter but after Hignutt had to go to the bench with foul trouble in the second, the Eagles closed the gap to two-points at halftime.
The Ravens responded by holding Smyrna scoreless for the first 4:21 of the third quarter. That allowed them to start the second half on a 7-0 run.
The lead kept growing as Sussex Tech led by as much as 15 in the fourth quarter.
Davis credited the defense to a switch to a man-to-man system.
“The kids have bought into it,” Davis said. “My son Justin does most of the coaching on defense and we knew what they ran against us in the previous two games. We knew to keep Credle from going left and we worked extra hard on that the last few days.”
“We go hard every single day in practice on defense,” Carter said. “That’s something we’ve been focused on since the summer. I think we take pride in our defense. We know we can keep teams from scoring.”