By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The calmness and business-like approach by Dillard in its Class 7A state semifinal was well scripted by coach Marcia Pinder.
Led by senior center Raven White’s 19 points and 12 rebounds and senior forward Genovea Johnson’s 15 points and nine rebounds, the Panthers cruised to a 53-38 victory over Daytona Beach Father Lopez at the RP Funding Center on Friday.
Dillard (25-5) will face Nease, 52-40 winner over Fort Myers, for the state championship at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Panthers are seeking their 10th title and eighth since 2004.
“That was the first and last thing being said was about be patient,” said Pinder. “We didn’t want to settle as well.”
That has been Pinder’s blueprint during her 42 years and 971 victories at Dillard. She’s also 9-0 all-time in title games.
“The titles aren’t so much for me, but for them,” Pinder said. “They’ve been with us through middle school and high school, so this one is kind of special for me for them.”
Up 23-17 at the half, Dillard essentially put the game out of reach with a 19-9 run in the third quarter, keyed by Kintaeja Ling’s three 3-point field goals. She finished with 13 points, all coming in the second half.
Ling did the same thing late in the fourth quarter when the Panthers rallied to defeat St. Thomas Aquinas in the BCAA Big 8 championship game.
“We change our defense and personal in the third quarter,” said Pinder. “We were just trying to find the right chemistry at that particular time.”
Dillard earned the lead on the strength of White and Johnson in the paint.
“My teammates got me more involved and many times I got fouled,” said White.
“After last year’s loss we all took it tough,” said Johnson. “This what we have worked for and we want to bring it home.”
The Panthers had the edge in four major categories that were key in the victory.
They led in bench scoring (17-6), points in the paint (28-18), second chance points (23-5) and points off turnovers (21-8).
White and Johnson played an expected key role as the Panthers built a 23-17 halftime lead.
The pair combined for 21 points and nine rebounds while leading all but the first minute of the first half.
White’s height and positioning under the boards were key to Dillard’s 12-3 second chance points in the opening half. She was also 5-6 from the line and as a team Dillard was 9 of 10, which compared to Father Lopez (1 of 4) was the reason why Panthers led by six.
DILLARD 53, FATHER LOPEZ 38
FL (27-3): Rogers 1-0-3, Robinson 3-0-6, White 2-3-8, Williams 2-3-8, Watson 3-0-7, Stewart 3-0-6.
D (25-5): Johnson 5-5-15, White 6-7-19, Christia 0-2-2, Ling 5-0-13, Boyce 1-0-2, Harris 1-0-2.
3-pointers: Ling 3, Rogers, White, Williams, Watson. Half: D 23-17.