NEWARK, Del. — The Delaware 87ers (26-22) topped the Greensboro Swarm (18-31) 123-114 in a must-win game that keeps the 87ers playoff hopes alive. Russ Smith led the way with a season-high 43 points as the Sevens topped the Swarm for the third time in four meetings this season.
The game began as a battle of starting point guards, with Delaware’s Russ Smith and Greensboro’s Cat Barber trading blows in the early part of the first. Smith put up 10 of the Sevens’ first 12 points, while former 87er Barber scored 11 of the Swarm’s first 13 points. The first quarter stayed close and became a high-scoring affair, ending with the 87ers holding a 36-30 lead.
The Sevens controlled the beginning of the second quarter, leaping out to a 41-32 lead before allowing an 8-0 run from the Swarm. The game was tied at 47 at the midway point of the second, but Delaware outscored Greensboro 18-8 the rest of the frame to take a 65-55 lead into the locker room. Russ Smith had 25 at halftime to lead all scorers.
It didn’t take long for Russ Smith to reach the 30-point plateau. He scored the Sevens’ first five points of the third quarter within a minute to hit the mark. Delaware maintained its lead throughout the period, but Greensboro cut into their deficit by three across the third to make the score heading into the final quarter 91-84 in favor of Delaware.
Greensboro scored the fourth’s first basket to bring them to within five points, but the 87ers responded with a 10-0 run to give themselves a bit of a cushion. Though the Swarm continued to make things interesting, Delaware kept them at bay. When the score was 102-95, Russ Smith ripped off eight unanswered to give the Sevens a 15-point lead. Greensboro proved a tough out, but Devondrick Walker’s three-ball with 18.8 seconds left iced the affair and gave Delaware a 123-114 win.
The 87ers had five players finish in double figures. Russ Smith (43), Shane Edwards (18), Walker (13), Roscoe Smith (12) and Terrence Jennings (11) made up the group. Barber had 23 for Greensboro, which was led in scoring by former Kansas standout Perry Ellis, who dropped 25.
Though the Sevens are alive in the playoff race, they have zero margin for error. They are two games back of the final playoff spot and must win their next two games and have fourth-place Maine lose its final two contests. The 87ers hold the tiebreakers with the Red Claws, who have lost three straight and finish the year with a road back-to-back.