All that’s missing when Blanche Ely star guard Lance Tejada III has the ball in a hard-fought four quarter is Metallica's “Enter Sandman” blaring over the loudspeakers.
Tejada, who is averaging a career-high 27.2 points, has taken a page out of Mariano Rivera’s book as a prolific late game closer for the two-time defending Class 7A state boys’ basketball champion Tigers (5-0).
Tejada’s ability to score in late game situations keyed victories over Boyd Anderson, Northeast and Fort Lauderdale and will play a large role when the Tigers visit arch rival Dillard (7-1) on Saturday.
“When the games count, a lot of players don’t like to play with a lot of pressure,’’ Tejada said. “What separates me is I enjoy playing against pressure. I’ve prepared myself for situations like that. You just have to be mentally tough to take that last shot.”
Dillard hopes to offset Tejada’s red-hot scoring with a deep and talented frontline led by 6-6 Cedric Wright, 6-4 Keon Farrington, 6-4 Trandon Smith, 6-4 Arthur ‘Rico’ Kennedy and its sharp shooting guard Tyson Grace.
Tejada, an East Carolina signee, scored a game-high 31 points to lead a stirring 78-75 comeback overtime victory over Boyd Anderson, 24 against host Northeast at one of the toughest venues to play and then a game-high 32 points against Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.
The Flying L’s (3-2) were thinking upset after taking a 32-29 halftime lead but ultimately Tejada proved to be the difference with some big shots in the fourth quarter as the Tigers pulled away late for a 75-65 victory.
While hard-nosed 6-7 forward Therrell Gosier (14.3 ppg, 10 rpg) has emerged as a top post prospect and transfers Joshua Floyd (13.4 ppg) and Javon Heastie (9 ppg), who faces his former team for the first time, have provided a spark, Tejada has been opponents’ biggest late game headache.
In past seasons Tejada was best known for his great court vision and a crafty, change of pace dribble that allows him to get to the rim at will. This past Summer Tejada added a deadly three-point shot to his arsenal leading to a spike in his scoring average from 11.5 points last season..
The result is Tejada transitioning from a pass-first, score second player to one that can close out opponents with a scoring binge.
“As a point guard you have to be able to see what is needed on the court,” Tejada said. “This season I’ve taken on the role of being more assertive. In the offseason I put in a lot of work. The more work you put in the more confidence you will play with.”