By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The Blanche Ely girls basketball team was assembled to win a state championship.
In came coach Henry McNabb and three players over from Somerset Prep that had won back-to-back Class 3A state titles.
With those expectations, Blanche Ely erased an 11-point third quarter deficit to earn a 51-46 victory over Wekiva for the Class 6A state championship at the RP Funding Center on Saturday.
It was the Tigers (28-6) first girls state title since 1992 and only the third in school history.
“We were fortunate down the stretch to make more plays,” said McNabb. “That was the key of the game in my opinion.
These two games have probably been the most exciting basketball games I have been a part of. Being down 11 and making sure the girls stay disciplined and focused with the will to win.”
Zaria Blake tied the score at 41-41 on a pair of free throws with 4:07 to play. Ely then took the lead for good at 45-41 on JaNiyah Moore free throw and a huge three-pointer with 3:12 to play.
Blake finished with 11 points, while Ja’Leah Williams and Mikhia Lumsdon each had 10 points.
The Williams was only 1 of 12 from the field, she was 6 of 6 from the line in the final quarter.
Down by 11 points at 31-20 early in the third quarter, the Tigers ended the quarter on a 13-6 run earning eight points off turnovers.
“That was a tough loss,” said Wekiva coach Tommie Butts. “In the second half we didn’t match Ely’s intensity and that led to 20 turnovers. We got out of character and didn’t do things we should have.”
The Tigers defense held Wekiva to 5 of 15 from the field in the second half. Ely, who also made 3 of 4 free throws in the first half, were 9 of 16 in the second half.
Ely shot a miserable 23-percent from the field in the first quarter, including 0-for-8 on three-point attempts, but still only trailed 16-10.
BLANCHE ELY 51, WEKIVA 46
W (24-8): Boles 3-4-10, Garrett 5-0-11, Smith 5-3-13, Williams 2-0-5, James 1-4-7.
BE (28-6): Blake 5-1-11, Moore 2-3-8, Simmons 1-0-3, Williams 1-8-10, Pomder 4-0-9, Lumsdon 5-0-10.
3-pointers: Moore, Simmons, Ponder, Garrett, Williams, James. Half: W 29-18