Basketball's talking heads toss around the term “on fire” so often that it has become almost meaningless in its ubiquity. But once in awhile, a performance is so perfect that hyperbole becomes all but impossible. Smyrna guards Greg Bloodsworth and Caleb Matthews put on that kind of show during the third quarter of their team’s season-opening tilt with Cape Henlopen. They went way beyond “on fire” and landed “on the surface of the sun.”
Bloodsworth and Matthews combined for 53 points – 21 of them in a five-minute third-quarter blitz – and connected on 10-of-14 three-pointers to carry the defending state champion Eagles to a 64-55 triumph over the Vikings Dec. 1 in Lewes.
Cape controlled most of the first half and led 34-33 early in the third. That’s when Matthews showed why he was named a first-team all-state player last season. The 6-foot-3 two-guard poured in 11 unanswered points, including three deep three-pointers, in a two-minute span. Matthews’s third trifecta, an effortless 25-footer off the dribble, stunned the Vikings faithful and gave the Eagles a 44-34 edge with 4:50 left in the period.
Bloodsworth took over from there, notching Smyrna’s next 10 points to take all the air out of what had been a raucous Big House. The undersized but tireless transfer from St. Thomas More converted two breakaway lay-ups and a pair of threes, the second of which swelled his squad’s lead to 54-38.
Cold-shooting Cape could get no closer than eight points the rest of the way, as the Eagles wrapped up their sixth win in their last seven matchups with the Vikings.
Bloodsworth finished with 27 points and hit five of his six three-point tries for Smyrna, while Matthews added 26 points, went 5-for-8 from long range and dished out four assists. The duo combined for all but three of Smyrna’s field goals on the night and accounted for 49 of the team’s first 54 points.
Senior big man Ian Robertson led Cape with 19 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and three blocks, but his sublime stat line couldn’t save the Vikings from poor second-half shooting. Cape went 10-for-32 (.313) from the floor after intermission, including an abysmal 1-for-12 (.083) from beyond the arc. Steve Re’s squad connected on just three of its 23 three-point tries on the night.
“We just didn’t make shots,” said Re, whose Vikings torched the net from three-point land during preseason scrimmages. “We’re capable of 70-plus points every night, and we just didn’t get it. I don’t know if it was first home game jitters or pressure or nerves. If you asked me coming into tonight, I’d say we could make 10 or 12 threes. We only hit three, and we didn’t even get bad looks.”
High-flying senior forward Randy Rickards chipped in with 15 points, six boards and four blocks for the Vikings, who sprinted to an 18-11 advantage after one period and looked ready to run the Eagles out of the gym. Senior guard Izaiah Dadzie added 12 points and a pair of threes, while sophomore wing Sh’Kai Chandler collected four points, five boards and three steals.
Robertson admitted that Smyrna’s hot shooting got into the Vikings’ heads.
“[Smyrna] just kept playing hard,” he sad. “When they started hitting shots and we lost our touch, it got to us. We got frustrated with ourselves, frustrated with our teammates. It got in our heads, and we stopped playing with the energy we had at the beginning of the game.”
Cape will return to action Tuesday, Dec. 5, when the team visits 0-1 Sussex Central. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.