A tenacious defense and clutch free throw shooting propel the Smyrna Lady Eagles to a 57-52 come-from behind home victory over Padua Academy Thursday night.
"We knew we would get bounced tonight, so we came prepared. Free throws win games, so we have to keep making our free throws and we have to continue to play together," said Smyrna coach Rachel Woodall.
The Pandas came out with a sharp shooting touch to build a 15-11 lead after the first eight-minute session.
Junior Emma Matthews held the hot hand from short and long range for the visitors.
However, Smyrna would not be denied on a very cold winter evening. Late in the first quarter, the Eagles trailed by ten at 15-5, but then ran off 13 unanswered points to take an 18-15 edge. That lead was short-lived, as Matthews countered with a rare four-point play.
But from that point, Smyrna would regain its collective composure and take over the game. After two periods, the Eagles work to acquire a 27-23 lead at the half.
"I think we let a lot of things get in our head early, with all the fouls, but in any sport, you're not going to get all the calls your way, and we have to play our game," said Woodall.
During the third quarter, Smyrna continued to play well on both side of the ball, with the offense increasing the lead to nine points at 43-34.
In the final stanza, Padua tried to play up-tempo and press on defense, but the Lady Eagles didn't rattle and their defense held off a late Panda charge to take home the team's 12th victory in 13 games.
"Right now we have to ramp up our defense to be successful. We are in the second half of the season, so right now we consider our record to be 1-0 and keep playing good defense and make those free throws," added Woodall.
Senior Kamerra Matthews led the Eagles with 20 points, Brionna Johnson added 15 and Alexus Stroud had 11 points. Matthews led Padua and all scorers with 23 points and Emily Thiemann added 9 points.
Padua's next game is Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Delaware Military Academy at 7 p.m. The Eagles next contest is Friday, Feb. 1, at Dover High at 7:15 p.m.