By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The Blanche Ely girls played perhaps their worst game of the season in the Class 6A state semifinal against Winter Haven.
Then Mekhia Lumsdon saved the Tigers season and chance for the teams’ first state title since 1992 with a game-winning layup at the buzzer for a 55-53 victory at the RP Funding Center on Thursday.
It was the Tigers 17th consecutive win.
Ely (27-6) will play Wekiva for the state championship on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
“This was a good win,” said Lumsdon. “Never did I think it would come down to a buzzer winning shot. We didn’t play a good game at all.”
The basket was Lumsdon’s only points of the game.
“The resilience that we had, the patience and the will to win was about fighting to the last buzzer,” said Ely coach Henry McNabb. “These girls work so hard. I’m lost for words and we’re fortunate to be playing in the final.”
Ely trailed the enter second half and when leading scorer Ja’Leah Williams fouled out with 2:50 left in the game, the chance dimmed for the Tigers title hopes.
Michiyak Simmons tied the game at 53-53 with a basket and one with 28.1 second remaining.
Ely committed 21 turnovers and shot just 36.1 percent for the field and found a to still win.
Williams led the Tigers with 17 points, while Zaria Blake added 15 points.
The Tigers looked anything but sharp in the first half despite opening on an 8-0 run.
Sloppy play led to many unforced turnovers. In addition, poor shooting, allowed Winter Haven to battle back while outscoring Ely 21-11 the rest of half for a surprising 21-19 lead at the break.
Ely made only 1 of 15 attempts from the field in the second quarter, including missing all nine 3-point attempts.
BLANCHE ELY 55, WINTER HAVEN 53
WH (22-9): Phillips 2-1-5, Ricks 7-1-16, Spencer 2-1-5, Smith 3-2-10, Hardy 5-3-13, Washington 1-0-2, Young 0-2-2.
BE (27-6): Blake 6-3-15, Moore 2-0-5, Simmons 4-1-10, Williams 6-4-17, Ponder 2-1-6, Lumsdon 1-0-2.
3-pointers: Moore, Williams, Simmons, Ponder, Smith 2, Ricks. Half: WH 21-19.