DOVER — The last thing Elisha Gregory wanted was a repeat of two weeks ago.
After his team suffered a 24-point loss to rival Dover High at home on Jan. 11, the Smyrna High senior standout made sure his Eagles turned the tables on the road this time around.
Gregory dropped a game-high 27 points to lead the Eagles to a 62-60 victory over the Senators Tuesday night. He scored 13 of those points in the third quarter alone to break the game open in the second half.
“He did exactly what I needed him to, and that’s to think a little bit more selfishly from a production standpoint,” said Smyrna coach Andrew Mears. “He loves to include his teammates, he loves to see his teammates succeed, but there’s that winning time when I need him to keep the ball in his hands and make plays and he sensed that and he got it done.
“So, a lot of credit to that guy, he’s an unselfish player, a hard-working leader that really had a good moment there.”
The Henlopen Conference Northern Division victory extends Smyrna’s winning streak to five games in a row and snaps Dover’s winning streak at eight straight dating back to Dec. 14.
It also avenges the Eagles’ 76-54 loss to the Senators (10-2, 8-1 Henlopen North) on Jan. 11, which included a second half in which Smyrna was outscored 39-23 and put up just four fourth-quarter points.
“I saw a lot of potential that last game,” Gregory said. “That was a tough loss. We hadn’t seen a loss like that in two or three years, so that was a tough loss for us … After that game, my teammates said ‘We’re not going to worry about it, we’re going to get back and get our chance again’ and we got that chance and capitalized on it.”
Senior Devin DeMoe added 16 points and senior Majesti Carter recorded 12 points for the Eagles, while senior Kevin Woodruff (six) and junior Danny Lerro (two) rounded out the scoring.
On Tuesday, Smyrna took control early on, leading for much of the first and second quarters. The Eagles led by as many as seven points in the second quarter and took a 26-21 lead into the halftime break.
“At halftime, we knew we were playing a great team in Dover, and they’ve got some great players and great coaches,” said Gregory. “So, we had to reassess and we knew we had to match what we did in the first half, only better.”
Gregory netted seven points in the final 2:08 of the quarter, including a steal and fastbreak dunk with five seconds remaining, to give Smyrna an 11-point advantage, 45-34, and the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
Dover stayed in the game down the stretch, cutting Smyrna’s lead from double digits down to just two points, 57-55, with 29 seconds remaining. But the Eagles’ defense forced a couple Dover turnovers and knocked down three out of four free throw attempts in the last 22 seconds to preserve the win.
Smyrna (7-3, 6-2 North) has a quick turnaround as it hits the road for three consecutive road contests at Salesianum, Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink. The Eagles play at Sallies on Friday night in a rematch of last year’s DIAA state matchup — which Smyrna won by a point.
“We’re playing some pretty good basketball right now,” said Mears “It’s a quick turnaround, we’ve got a couple of non conference games over the next couple of weeks and then we get right back to knee deep in the conference.”