By Dave Brousseau
POMPANO BEACH – One teams dream season goes on, just barely.
Blanche Ely survived a scare but held on to defeat St. Thomas Aquinas 46-42 in a Class 6A regional semifinal on Tuesday at Blanche Ely High.
The Tigers (25-6) will host Dillard, a 58-49 winner over Nova, in a regional final on Friday. The Ely girls’ basketball program hasn’t won a state championship since 1992.
If counting that’s 28 years.
The victory also extended the Tigers winning streak to 15 games. They have also defeated Dillard three times this season. A fourth win will mean a trip to the state semifinal in Lakeland.
“I don’t know how many of these I have left in me,” said Blanche Ely coach Henry McNabb. “I’m just happy to be on the positive side of this win.
“I knew this was going to be competitive. St. Thomas is a great team, so I knew we were going to be in a dog fight, and it came down to the last seconds.”
Zaria Blake made Ely’s only basket of the fourth quarter, giving the Tigers a 41-39 lead with 3:28 left to play in regulation. They would never trail again.
Bella LaChance, who lead the Aquinas with 13 points, scored on a short jumper with 51.3 seconds left that closed the score to 43-41.
It became a free throw contest from there
Led by Ja’Leah Williams, four Ely players scored 11 points on the night
“It was tough, but we made it look tough,” said Williams about the outcome. “Beating Aquinas three times lets everybody know means we’re not holding back and need to do what we have to do.”
The pivotal fourth quarter saw Aquinas cut into a seven-point deficit to 39-37 just seconds into the quarter
Samara Spencer tied the score at 39-39 with 5:28 left. She finished with 11 points.
Ely opened the second half with an aggressive defense that didn’t allow Aquinas good looks at the basket. In doing so, the Tigers were able to stretch the lead to 10 points at 36-26 until the final second of the quarter.
The Raiders (20-8), which had managed only two baskets dropped a pair of 3-pointers from LaChance and Spencer.
Jaylen Ponder had a solid first half with 10 points that helped the Tigers to a 28-22 lead at the break.
The Raiders got eight points from center Angelee Rodriguez in the half as LaChance and Spencer were held to nine combined points.
BLANCHE ELY 46, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 42
STA (20-8): LaChance 4-3-13, Spencer 3-4-11, Gorson 1-0-2, Rodriguez 4-0-8, Gustave 3-1-8.
BE (25-6): Moore 0-1-1, Simmons 4-2-11, Williams 5-0-11, Blake 4-3-11, Ponder 4-1-11, Lumdson 0-1-1.
3-pointers: Ponder 2, Williams, Simmons, LaChance 2, Spencer, Gustave. Half: BE 28-22.