Booed soundly in pre-game introductions upon his first visit to Northeast after transferring to rival Blanche Ely, Richard Lee sank a signature three-pointer from the left wing and then held his right arm extended for effect.
Lee’s shot with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter was part of a pivotal 10-0 run that helped Blanche Ely — 6-0, the reigning Class 7A state champions — storm back in the fourth quarter to defeat host Northeast 66-59 in front of a standing-room-only crowd on Tuesday night.
An already intense rivalry between Ely, No. 1 in the RMF Magazine South Florida rankings and No. 6 Northeast (5-1) went up a few more notches when Lee, a three-point shooting ace seen a cornerstone player for the Hurricanes, transferred to Blanche Ely.
Lee’s move north stung Northeast fans, who voiced their displeasure toward Lee at every opportunity.
“This was very emotional,” Lee said. “I was playing in a tough atmosphere in front of my old fans and team. I just had to stay focused. I had to pick it up with that shot because I was playing bad in the first half. I expected the boos, but my teammates played hard and stood behind me.”
The Hurricanes (5-1) wasted a sensational night from Hunter Osceola, who finished with a game-high 22 points, including three three-pointers, and 6-8 forward Malik Price-Martin, who had 17 points.
Lee’s solid but unspectacular 10 points were offset by Lance Tejada III, a fellow transfer who swung the momentum of the game in the Tigers’ favor for good with 18 points and four steals.
Kahlil Thomas added 14 points for the Tigers.
Northeast built a 21-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and never relinquished its lead until full-court pressure applied by Ely defensive stalwart Dallas Cameron started to take its toll on the Hurricanes.
Tejada sparked the push with a steal and finished a three-point play to push the Tigers ahead 55-54 with 5:35 left.
Tejada then dove for a steal at half court that led to a left-handed layup by Lee on the other end, and Thomas converted a feed from Darion Allen for a 59-54 lead. Lee then found all net for his only three-pointer of the game, and the Tigers, ranked No. 21 in the nation by Maxpreps, breathed a sigh of relief in a game that had a playoff-type atmosphere.
“I just went with the game and trusted my instincts,” Tejada said. “Northeast was hitting a lot of big shots, and we weren’t closing out on them. We had to pick up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter. Once we went on a run, I knew we had it in the bag. We just want to get Ws. We don’t get into all that fan talk.”
• Blanche Ely 66, Northeast 59 – BE (6-0): Lee 10, Cameron 4, Tejada 18, Allen 13, Thomas 14, Gossier 6. NE (5-1): Osceola 22, Price-Martin 17, Mendez 8, Simonson 10, Wilsher 2. Half: NE 35-30. Three-pointers: Lee 1, Tejada 1, Osceola 3, Mendez 1, Simonson 3. Rebounds: Thomas 10. Assists: Cameron 7. Steals: Tejada 4.
Cardinal Gibbons 2, University School 0: Cosette Motta 1 goal. Abby Perry 1 goal. Tricia Solenski 5 saves, fifth shutout. CG 8-1-2, US 5-7-5.
• Late Monday – American Heritage 1, West Boca 0: Emily Ybarra goal. Morgan Rivera shutout. AH 10-1.
• Late Friday – La Salle 2, Archbishop McCarthy 1: Nicole Baldassini goal and assist, Daniel Peña goal, Sol Baldassini assist, Maria Cuesta outstanding GK performance. IL 9-0-2