By Dave Brousseau
FORT LAUDERDALE – Chase Culpepper led four Stranahan players in double figures with 14 points as the Dragons held off a furious Dillard rally to escape with a 62-58 victory in a semifinal game at the 23rd annual BCAA Big 8 boys on Friday.
It was the Dragons first win in four tries over the last 10 seasons.
Stranahan (18-7) advances to its second Big 8 final in three years and will face Pembroke Pines Charter, 85-78 winner over Northeast, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Fort Lauderdale High.
Javen Smith led the Jaguars (20-1), who have won 19 consecutive games, with 26 points. Dallas Graziani added 21 points.
The Hurricanes were led by Matthew Bewley with 19 points and Wesley Cardet with 17 points.
“We need to settle down and run our sets,” said Stranahan coach Terrence Williams after falling behind early. “We got complacent in the first quarter.
I got to close now as my coaches have told me I have accomplished everything except for the Big 8. If I made it this I got to close.”
The Dragons, up by 10 points after three quarters, saw their lead slowly dwindle in the waning minutes as Jalen Haynes scored 14 of his 31 points in the quarter. His 10 consecutive free throws made got the Panthers within 57-56 with 1:11 to play.
Haynes was a monster tonight,” said Williams. “That was the only person we were worried about. He did what he had to do for his team. We dug deep with our bench to get fouls and if he made the free-throws, I could live with that.”
Dillard just couldn’t find the points to get them over the top as Stranahan connected on free throws of its own to seal the win. The charity shots came from Culpepper and Savier McCall.
Dillard was attempting to makes its 12 appearance in the finals and stretch the tournament record of seven Big 8 titles.
Dillard got off to as good a start as they could have hoped for. The Panthers jumped off to a 20-9 first quarter lead as Haynes and Darryl Burrows Jr. (12 points) combined for 12 points.
It wouldn’t last as Stranahan settled in to outscore the Panthers 20-11 in the second quarter, while squeezing the deficit to 31-29 at the half.
Daquion Vickers, who finished with 13 points and Inady Legiste (12 points) each had six points in the quarter.
STRANAHAN 62, DILLARD 58
S (18-7): Vickers 5-3-13, Squire 0-1-1, Bynes 5-0-12, Herard 2-0-4, C. Culpepper 5-4-14, McCall 1-3-5, Legiste 5-2-12.
D (17-7): Reynolds 2-3-7, Mack 2-1-5, Burrows 4-1-12, Haynes 9-13-31, Bennett 1-0-3.
3-pointers: Bynes 2, Burrows 3, Bennett. Half: D 31-29.
PEMBROKE PINES CHARTER 85, NORTHEAST 78
PPC (20-1): Price 4-0-9, Armenteros 0-1-1, Sprouse 4-0-11, Smith 10-3-26, Graziani 6-7-21, Ujabour 1-1-3, Laidley 5-0-10, Sabater 2-0-4.
NE (18-6): Francois 3-3-9, Dyges 1-0-2, Black 2-0-5, Harris 6-0-15, Cardet 7-1-17, M. Bewley 7-3-19, R. Bewley 2-7-11.
3-pointers: Sprouse 3, Smith 3, Graziani 2, Price, Harris 2, Cardet 2, M. Bewley 2, Black. Half: PPC 44-43.