Blanche Ely hoped to carry on its perfect basketball season to New York and a national championship.
Nevada’s Findlay Prep rejected those plans Thursday afternoon.
After battling one of the nation’s best and tallest frontcourts for three quarters, Blanche Ely eventually succumbed to Findlay Prep’s size advantage and suffered its first loss of the season 63-50 in a quarterfinal of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Nationals at Christ The King High School in Queens.
“In the second half, I thought [Findlay Prep] was doing a better job getting the ball inside and we kind of went into a relaxation mode,” said Blanche Ely coach Melvin Randall, who earlier this week was named USA Today’s National Coach of the Year for boys’ basketball. “The height was definitely a factor, but we did an amazing job considering.”
Blanche Ely (28-1), ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today and architects of Broward County’s first undefeated boys’ state championship season by a public school, led by as many as seven points late in the first half.
Blanche Ely senior LaQuincy Rideau delivered another balanced effort and helped keep an uptempo pace early that favored the Tigers. Rideau, a Gardner-Webb commit, finished with a team-high 15 points, a game-high seven assists, four steals and three blocks.
Ely’s pressure defense kept the game close as it contributed to Findlay Prep’s 22 turnovers. Senior guard Javon Heastie finished with 16 points and three steals, helping the defensive effort.
But too much size and skill in the paint from the Pilots’ trio of 6-8 forwards O’Shae Brissett, Justin Jackson and P.J. Washington registered nine blocks, including four in the fourth quarter to help Findlay Prep (29-2) pull away for good.
In addition to the denials at the basket, Findlay Prep outrebounded Ely 46-24 and outscored the Tigers 36-24 in the paint.
The Pilots outscored Ely 21-6 in the fourth quarter.
Washington, a highly-recruited sophomore, finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Jackson, a junior and UNLV commit, finished with 16 points.
Though the Pilots established control inside, their fatigued All-American Allonzo Trier managed to score a game-high 18 points. Trier, an Arizona signee, played in the McDonald’s All-America game in Chicago late Wednesday night, then boarded a flight to New York early Thursday morning to join his team in time for the game.
“I just wanted to bring energy and focus to the game,” Trier said. “I’m sure I was moving a lot slower than I thought I was since I’m on two hours sleep. I just did the best I could to focus and try to make a run to help my teammates.”
Randall expressed his pride in his team, which unlike Findlay Prep and several other teams in the eight-team tournament isn’t replete with upper-level Division I prospects.
Ely’s cohesive and athletic group put together one of the most memorable seasons in Broward County history that ended with the school’s fifth state championship.
“Throughout the season those guys have put together a tremendous effort in leading my team,” Randall said. “I’m not upset or disappointed because we had an amazing run. If you look at the size of my team who would have thought we would have done this.”
FP (29-2): Trier 18, Thornton, Jr. 10, Jackson 16, Washington 10, Spencer 7, Barrett 2.
BE (28-1): Gosier 2, Taylor 5, Wilson 2, Heastie 16, Rideau 15, Goodrum 6, Devers 4.
Half: Tied at 33. Fouled out: Thornton, Jr. Three-pointers: Trier 2, Taylor, Heastie 2, Rideau, Goodrum 2. Rebounds: Washington 12. Assists: Rideau 7. Steals: Rideau 4. Blocks: Jackson, Washington, Rideau 3.