By Dave Brousseau
PLANTATION – The Final is set and should be doozy.
For the second in 11 days St. Thomas Aquinas will play Dillard, but this time it will be for the BCAA Big 8 Championship. It will be the first appearance for the Raiders in this finale.
St. Thomas (18-5) will seek back-to-back wins over the Panthers after draining 10 three-pointers in a 64-48 victory last week.
They advanced to the title game with a 51-45 victory over defending Big 8 champ Nova in semifinal at South Plantation High on Friday. The championship is set for Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We were a little bit timid in the first half and in the second half we wanted to attack and making plays,” Aquinas coach Oliver Berens said. “We know Dillard is a very good basketball team and they have experience in this moment.
We need to make sure we stick to our game plan.”
Dillard has won this tournament seven times.
After fouling out in the Raiders Big 8 quarterfinal win, Samara Spencer scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the second half to help her team to the win.
“We had to come out with a mind set that this was a statement game and that’s what we did,” Spencer said. “We need to play up tempo against Dillard like we did when we played them the first time.”
The Titans (20-4) wouldn’t go away quietly as Gabrielle Gonzalez helped her team to a late push with 11 of her game-high 24 points late in the fourth quarter.
It wouldn’t be enough as Abby Hsu converted four late free throws to seal the win. She finished with 10 points.
Both teams shot poorly in the first half as Aquinas went in the break holding 18-12 lead.
Dillard advanced to its 15th Big 8 final with a 67-52 victory over rival Blanche Ely in the first semifinal of the night.
The Panthers (19-5) were led by senior center Raven White with 28 points and 20 rebounds.
It was her stellar second half performance that offset any comeback by Ely. She scored 22 points in the second half, including 12 late in the fourth quarter t help seize the victory.
“It was a good game, but I still missed a few layups,” said White. “My team recognized we had an advantage underneath the basket, and they kept feeding the ball to me.”
Genovea Johnson added 15 points for the Panthers.
“Raven played tough at both ends of the court,” Dillard coach Marcia Pinder said. “It was her night and we embraced it. We just need to play our regular game and stay positive going in the final.”
Ely (19-7) was led by sophomore guard Ja’Leah Williams with 26 points.
DILLARD 67, BLANCHE ELY 52
BE (19-7): Burgess 1-0-2, Williams 9-8-26, Daise 5-1-11, Ponder 0-2-2, Nivol 1-2-4, Blue 3-0-7.
D (19-5): Davis 1-0-3, Christia 0-2-02, Mattair 2-0-6, Emmanuel 1-0-2, Johnson 7-1-15, Ling 2-2-8, Boyce 0-2-2, Harris 0-1-1, White 12-4-28.
3-pointers: Mattair 2, Ling 2, Davis, Blue. Half: D 38-25
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 51, NOVA 45
STA (18-5): LaChance 2-2-6, Spencer 5-4-17, Rodriguez 1-0-2, Murphy 4-1-11, Rizzi 1-2-5, Hsu 3-4-10
N (20-4): Gonzalez 9-0-24, Levy 1-0-3, McGill 1-0-2, Mars 1-0-2, Massop 2-0-4, J. Delancy 1-1-3, T. Delancy 3-0-7.
3-pointers: Spencer 3, Murphy 2, Gonzalez 6, Levy, T. Delancy. Half: STA 18-12.