Dillard coach Darryl Burrows constantly has tweaked his starting lineup this season for various reasons.
It hasn’t knocked the Panthers off course.
With scoring contributions from 10 players on Thursday afternoon, Dillard continued its march to a potential state championship repeat with a 79-54 win over Ocala Vanguard in a Class 7A state semifinal at The Lakeland Center.
“We’ve changed our lineup at least 20 times this year,” Burrows said. “I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it might have been a luxury for us because it allowed us to have guys that are ready to step in and fill roles up. There weren’t many drop-offs in those changes.”
The Panthers (27-4) earned the chance to play for what would be a Broward County-best seventh state title. Burrows guided Dillard to all six of its championships. A seventh would tie him with Blanche Ely’s Melvin Randall for the most in state history and give him the most at one school.
Their remaining obstacle is a familiar one to the school’s longtime faithful.
Dillard will face Orlando Edgewater at 3 p.m. Saturday in what will be the fourth meeting at state all-time between the schools. Dillard beat Edgewater twice (2001, 2003) during its four-year state championship run from 1999-2003 and leads the series 2-1.
Dillard took Vanguard’s best shot for nearly three quarters before pulling away with a 29-4 run down the stretch.
Once again the combo of senior guards Raiquan Gray (FSU signee) and Jordan Wright (Kentucky signee) paced Dillard’s attack.
Wright finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, and Gray amassed 20 points and also had eight rebounds. Junior guard Bryce Oliver also scored 10 points.
Vanguard kept itself in the game by making 8 of 22 from three-point range, led by guard Devontae Bynes’ five triples.
But Dillard shot 56.5 percent overall and made 18 of 29 field goals in the second half as it dominated inside, scoring 58 points in the paint.
“We knew we needed to come out in the second half and play some defense and that this was a legitimate [Vanguard] team that deserved to be in Lakeland,” Burrows said. “As young adults, we tend to overlook things sometimes, but you can’t do that when you’re up here. They did some great things in the first half. Hopefully, our man-to-man upped the tempo a bit and let us stretch the lead a little bit.”
VAN (24-7): Mitchell 8, Bynes 15, Scott 11, Clayton 10, Perry 3, Ortiz 5, Kash 2. DIL (27-4): Gray 20, Gadson 4, Wright 24, Oliver 6, Coddington 10, Garner 2, Smith 2, Bartley 2, Sellars 5, R. Johnson 4. Half: DIL 41-35. Three-pointers: Bynes 5, Scott, Perry, Ortiz, Oliver, Sellars. Rebounds: Clayton, Gray, Wright 8. Assists: Clayton 5. Steals: Coddington 4. Blocks: Gray 2.
STATE BOYS’ BASKETBALL FINALS
When: Through Saturday.
Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland.
Admission: $10 per day; Parking: $10.
Thursday’s results – Class 6A semifinals: Leesburg 70, Jacksonville Ribault 64; Cape Coral Mariner 64, Palatka 28; Class 7A semifinals: Fort Lauderdale Dillard 79, Ocala Vanguard 54; Orlando Edgewater 83, Lehigh Acres Lehigh 53; Class 3A final: Orlando Christian Prep vs. Deltona Trinity Christian, inc.
Friday’s schedule – Class 8A semifinals: Palm Beach Lakes vs. Tallahassee Lincoln, noon; Tampa Sickles vs. Bradenton Lakewood Ranch, 2; Class 9A semifinals: South Miami vs. Apopka Wekiva, 4; Kissimmee Osceola vs. Wellington, 6; Class 4A final: Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy vs. Jacksonville Providence, 8.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 5A final: Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian vs. Tampa Catholic, 10 a.m.; Class 6A final: Leesburg vs. Mariner, 12:30; Class 7A final: Dillard vs. Orlando Edgewater, 3; Class 8A final: 5:30; Class 9A final: 8.