By Dave Brousseau
FORT LAUDERDALE – Blanche Ely’s drive for a girls’ state basketball championship nearly hit a snag on the way to the dance on Saturday.
The Tigers managed key points late in the fourth quarter to escape with a 53-49 victory over Dillard for the District 14-6A title at Dillard High.
The win ensures Ely (23-6) home court advantage in the regional quarterfinals on Thursday
Tied at 44-44, JaNiyah Moore’s 3-pointer ands a pair of free throws from Michiyah Simmons gave the Tigers enough cushion to hold off their rival.
The Panthers had an opportunity to tie the score at 51 with seconds remaining, but freshman Khyala Ngodu’s open look from short range went off the front of the rim.
Zaria Blake seal the victory with a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds left in regulation.
“Dillard did a really good job containing us and closing in on our shooters pretty hard,” said Blanche Ely coach Henry McNabb. “In the fourth quarters we were able to get a couple of stops and then made a couple of shots.
We were really fortunate to come away with this win.”
The game was close throughout as Ely kept themselves within striking distance with Ja’Leah Williams scoring 12 of her game-high 17 points in the first half.
The Panthers (18-8) took a first half lead as Ngodu had 11 points and Briah Christia added seven points, while holding onto a slim 28-27 lead.
Dillard kept the game close by staying patient and not allowing Ely any significant runs on offense.
It worked for most of the game.
“We allowed them a chance to get back into the game,” said Dillard coach Marcia Pinder. “Hopefully we’ll get another chance at them in the regionals.”
Kintaeja Ling and Ngodu led Dillard with 12 points each.
Ely also got significant points from Moore (13) and Simmons (10).
Said McNabb, “Winning was very important, because districts was one of our goals coming into the season and we play well at home.”
BLANCHE ELY 53, DILLARD 49
D (18-8): Christia 4-1-9, Mattair 2-1-5, Howell 2-2-6, Ling 4-2-12, Boyce 2-0-5, Ngodu 5-2-12.
BE (23-6): Moore 5-1-13, Simmons 2-5-10, Williams 5-4-17, Blake 0-2-2, Ponder 3-0-6, Lumdson 2-0-5.
3-pointers: Williams 3, Moore 2, Simmons, Lumdson, Ling 2, Boyce. Half: D 28-27.