Only a freshman, Dudley Blackwell still has a lot of basketball left in his high school career.
But he will be hard pressed to ever hit a bigger shot than he did on Tuesday night.
With his Westminster Academy team having squandered a 16-point second-half lead and the game tied at 66 and the clock ticking down, Blackwell drove to the top of the key and, despite tight defense, double pumped and let go of a one-handed off-balance shot.
And it swished right through as the buzzer sounded and Westminster Academy had itself a dramatic 68-66 win over Sagemont in front of a screaming and standing-room-only crowd in a Region 4-4A final at Sagemont High School.
Westminster (27-4) advances to the state final four in Lakeland for the second straight year and will look to erase the painful memories of a last-second loss to Windemere Prep in last year’s state title game. The Lions will square off against Seffner Christian on March 1 in a state semifinal in the Lakeland Center.
“That clearly was the biggest shot of my life and I’m just so happy I could come through for my teammates,” said Blackwell, who finished the night with 15 points. “There was no real play call, just going off of instinct and trying to create something. It was tough tonight because we lost a big lead, Sagemont really pressed us hard but in the end, we found a way and now we’re headed back to Lakeland.”
Westminster led 38-22 midway through the third quarter before Sagemont, led by red hot shooting from beyond the arc, started carving into the WA lead. Still down four with 48 seconds left, Sagemont’s Samir Stewart hit a three pointer cutting the deficit to one at 64-63.
Even after Blackwell hit a driving layup to put his team up by three with 30 seconds left, Sagemont’s Tyler Polley buried an NBA-size three with 18 seconds left tying the game and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Blackwell then took the last possession and dribbled out around half court looking for a clearout screen that he never got. Isiah Kirby played great defense and didn’t bite on Blackwell’s fake at the top of the key. Blackwell then went up and double pumped and let go of the shot off balance with his right hand.
“I think I aged about 15 years in that fourth quarter,” said Westminster head coach Ehren Wallhoff. “But you just knew, Sagemont is such a great team that they would find a way to come back and really push us and that’s exactly what happened. Give a lot of credit to our guys, they came into the huddle and said we’re going to do this now. We just wanted to get the ball in Dudley’s hands and see if he could create something. He’s been growing all year, an unbelievable athlete, an unbelievable basketball player. Tonight was his coming out party.”
WA (27-4): P. Atkinson 19, Strong 16, Blackwell 15, Johnston 11, Scott 7. SAGE: (22-7): Polley 18, Kirby 16, Stewart 16, Verbinskis 10, Zdor 3, Williams 2. 3 pointers: Stewart 4, Verbinskis 3, Johnston 3, Polley 2, Kirby, Blackwell. HALF: WA 29-20. WA: Rebounds, P. Atkinson 12, Assists: Scott 5, Steals: Johnston.
▪ Region 4-8A semifinal — Palm Beach Lakes 64, Blanche Ely 62: After keeping its bid for a state championship three-peat alive with a dramatic fourth quarter rally against Palm Beach Dwyer in the Region 4-8A quarterfinals, the late game magic ran out for Blanche Ely on Tuesday.
Out of a Palm Beach Lakes timeout with 10.1 seconds left, Lavorris Givins found Tyrese Mapp for the winning layup as the Rams stunned the host Tigers 64-62 in the Region 4-8A semifinals.
As the Palm Beach Lakes bench swarmed the Tigers’ home floor, Ely players and coaches looked up at the scoreboard in disbelief before reluctantly making their last walk to their locker room this season.
Ely appeared on its way to duplicating another late game comeback after Michael Forrest scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and Geremy Taylor sank two clutch free throws with 35.8 seconds left to tie the game 62-62. But Mapp’s layup denied the Tigers’ run for a sixth state championship under coach Melvin Randall.
“We got off to a bad start,” Taylor said. “We came back from six points down in the fourth quarter. Mike hit a couple threes but we couldn’t pull it through. This is very disappointing. I wanted to win three state championships in a row. It hurts because I still want to come back to practice tomorrow and compete for another championship.”
Jordan Strowbridge had a team-high 16 points for the Tigers (25-7). Taylor and Forrest finished 13 points each.
The Rams, who got 19 points from Mapp, 19 points from Daiquan Wyatt and 18 points from Givins in winning its 15th game in the past 16, face McArthur in the regional finals on Feb. 24.
Mapp opened the fourth quarter with a putback to put the Rams up 54-46 before Ely mounted a 9-2 run behind Forrest’s eight points, a layup by Taylor and two free throws from Joshua Scot which gave Ely a 58-56 lead with 2:27 left.
PBL (24-3): Mapp 19, Wyatt 19, Givins 18, Hands 6. BE (25-7): Taylor 13, Rogers 3, Forrest 13, Scott 9, Strowbridge 16, Stampley 9. Half: PBL 32-30. Three-pointers: Mapp 2, Givins 2, Hands 1, Rogers 1, Forrest 3, Strowbridge 5.
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Calvary Christian 51, University School 46: This was your typical Calvary Christian boys basketball game only with a hitch.
It was low scoring as usual, but with a Class 5A regional semifinal victory at stake.
Calvary rally continued for a 51-46 victory at University School in Fort Lauderdale.
It was the fifth time Calvary won by scoring 51 or fewer points this season
The Eagles (21-6) will play at Gulliver Prep on Friday in a regional final for the right to advance to the state tournament.
With 4:07 left to play Victor Uyaelunmo a 36-34 lead on a basket and free throw as Calvary would nether trail again. The game seemingly got away from the Sharks (20-7) as the Eagles lead blossomed to seven with 54.6 seconds remaining.
Uyaelunmo finished with 14 points an d teammate Reasheem Etienne added 13 points.
Midway through the third quarter University seemingly gathered a full steam of momentum with Balsa Koprivica and Vernon Carey Jr. connected on back-to-back thunderous dunks for a 29-22 lead.
Time out was called by Calvary.
“They just made their run and punched us in the mouth. Now we make ours,” Calvary coach Cilk McSweeney told his players. “I told them we’ve got to play hard, and they responded back. Those were two rim-rocking dunks, had the whole crowd involved. We came back and we responded. I’m so proud of my guys.”
The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 30-30.
Koprivica finished with 18 points, while Carey had 11.
CC (21-6): LeBron 1-0-3, Dalger 0-1-1, S. Uyaelunmo 3-2-8, Etienne 2-7-13, Eze 0-1-1, Butler 4-2-11, V. Uyaelunmo 6-2-14. US (20-7): Moore 1-3-6, Flowers 1-1-3, Sanguinetti 2-0-4, Saunders 1-0-2, Koprivica 6-6-18, Carey Jr. 4-2-11, Franklin 1-0-2. Three-pointers: LeBron, Etienne, Butler, Moore, Carey Jr. Half: US 19-18.
▪ Region 4-8A semifinal — McArthur 72, Nova 60: McArthur trailed throughout most of the first half, but outscored host Nova 24-11 in the third quarter to pull away and clinch a trip to the region final.
“We were just thinking about getting the lead back,” Kheron Millwood said. He led the Mustangs (20-10) with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
A dunk by Ralph Bissainthe in the third quarter was a key play in the rally and put the mustangs up 44-33.
The Titans (19-8) were led by Shemer Bennett who had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Noah Brown had a 12 point and 11 rebound double-double for McArthur.
McArthur will face Palm Beach Lakes in the 4-8A final on Friday at 7 p.m.
McA: Bissainthe 19, Saintil 3, Belvin 16, Brown 12, Millwood 19, Labastille 3. Nova: Griffin 16, Thompson 16, Byrd 6, Bennett 12, Nixon 9, Hart 1. Three-pointers: Griffin 3, Saintil, Millwood, Belvin. Rebounds: Millwood 18. Assists: Byrd 4. Halftime: Nova 29-27.
▪ Region 3-9A semifinal — Coral Springs 47, Deerfield Beach 44: With 51 seconds left and up four in the regional semifinals, visiting Deerfield Beach had defending state champion Coral Springs on the ropes.
But just as they have done so many times under head coach Devin Barta, the Colts fought back.
After Jelani Heard knocked down a pair of free throws to cut it to two, junior guard Wilvens Fleurizard took over.
Fleurizard tied the game with a layup, and then stole the ball at half-court and finished at the rim with two seconds left to help give Coral Springs a dramatic 47-44 win over Deerfield Beach in the Region 3-9A semifinals.
“It’s amazing but the job is not done yet,” Fleurizard said. “We’re not done yet. We’ve still got three more games to go and hopefully get that ring.”
Coral Springs (20-7) will travel to Wellington with a trip to Lakeland on the line for the second straight year on Friday night.
The Colts — which defeated Deerfield in the district championship after losing both games to their district foe in the regular season — stepped up big defensively, limiting the Bucks to their second lowest point total of the season.
Deerfield 6-foot senior guard Edwin Louis — who averages well over 20 PPG — was held to just eight points, the first time he’s been held under ten all year.
“We had a good defensive game plan and our guys bought into it,” Barta said. “We executed it and it allowed us to be successful. Edwin Louis is a tremendous player and we worked really, really hard to try and deny him the ball.”
Senior guard Marcus Brave headed to the line with 54 seconds left with Deerfield Beach (21-9) up 44-40, but missed the one-and-one. But that was after Brave, who finished with 10 points, scored two key baskets with the game tied at 40 to give the Bucks the lead.
Coral Springs jumped out to an early 10-9 lead after one and led 25-24 at halftime, but Deerfield finished the third on a 6-0 run to take a 36-35 lead into the fourth.
Fleurizard led Coral Springs with 18 points, while junior guard Deante Moore and senior Sean Lowry chipped in nine points for the Colts.
“My kids won’t give up,” Barta said. “It’s a staple we build our program on. No matter what the situation, we just play to the buzzer and let the scoreboard take care of itself.”
Coral Springs — which lost 11 of its 14 players from last year’s state title team and all its starters — will play in the regional finals for the third time in the four years Barta has been coach.
“We say that the faces change but the culture and the attitude stays the same,” Barta said. “These guys are just taking after their big brothers. They are a young, but talented group.”
CS (20-7): Fleurizard 18, Moore 9, Lowry 9, Lucien 7, Heard 2, London 2. DB (21-9): Davis 10, Brave 10, Louis 8, Desulme 8, Francois 3, Senatus 3, Carpenter 2.