Once again the Blanche Ely boys’ basketball team is a state champion. And coach Melvin Randall is on top with a state record eighth title.
All that was the result of the Tigers rolling to their sixth title since 2007 and seventh all-time, defeating Jacksonville Creekside 77-54 in the Class 8A state championship games played at the RP Funding Center on Saturday.
It was Ely’s third championship in four years. Only Dillard has more from a Broward boys’ team in the same span, with four in a row from 2000-03. Overall, Ely has won five championships since 2012.
Last season Dillard coach Darryl Burrows joined Randall as coaches with the most state titles in the state. All seven of Burrows championships are the most of any coach in state history at one school. Randall won two of his at Deerfield Beach and six at Ely.
“This one, like I always say, I’m very blessed,” Randall said. “This one was sweeter than the one when we finished undefeated in 2015, because of all the things we went through.
“There was a lot of diversity that we went through. The kids worked extremely hard. I owe it all to them.”
Under Randall, the Tigers program also joined Miami High, Malone, Orlando Christian Prep and Arlington Country Day to win five state titles over a seven-year period.
Junior forward Joshua Scott led the Tigers for the second night in a row with 26 points and six rebounds. He was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free-throw line.
Senior guard Michael Forrest, who was key in the Tigers winning 13 of the last 14 games of the season, finished with 21 points. Anthony Byrd added 14 points.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Forrest said. “We won state my sophomore year and came back to win again this year.”
Forrest is among several former Ely players to finish their career with two state titles.
The Tigers (24-8) outscored their opponent in each quarter, an indication they were in control once the lead was theirs to defend.
A slow start offensively by the Tigers eventually led to a sprint. They shot 44 percent in the first half and that swelled to 77.8 percent alone in the third quarter when they shot 7 of 9 from the field.
As it did in the victory over St. Petersburg in the state semifinal, Ely was efficient from the free-throw line, making 23-of-28 attempts. The Tigers shot just over 71 percent from the line at the state tourney.
Ely’s lead was just one at the end of the first quarter before Scott made four straight free throws after he was fouled and a tech foul by the Creekside coach Will Mayer as the second quarter got underway.
“When we shoot free throws the coach always tells us to focus on the technique and not the shot,” Scott said. “I made the first one and kept making more. After that we just started scoring.”
The Tigers would go on a 17-4 run in the quarter that effectively put the game out of reach at 36-19.
Of Randall’s eight championship’s, the 23-points win was second only to the 32-point win over Oak Ridge for the Class 7A title in 2012.
“My surroundings are definitely a plus,” Randall said about his success. “I feel I have the greatest assistants on this planet that help build the program, but also built the student-athletes in our program.”
BE (24-8): Scott 7-12-26, Isnord 3-0-6, Byrd 6-1-14, McCutcheon 3-0-7, Forrest 4-9-21, Francois 1-0-2, Rainer 0-1-1. CS (27-5): Kasparzak 0-2-2, Dumas 2-6-10, Lippy 5-4-14, Plummer 3-7-13, Fulks 1-0-2, Townsend 1-0-3, Phillips 4-0-8, Moore 1-0-2. Three-pointers: Forrest 4, Byrd, McCutcheon, Townsend. Half: BE 42-39.