Everything was lined up for Class 5A No. 1 Coconut Creek to dispatch four-time defending Class 5A state champion Dillard in the 5A regional semifinals on the Cougars home floor on Tuesday and cruise to the Class 5A state title.
Unfortunately for the heavily favored Cougars, the injury ravaged Panthers never got the memo.
In a dramatic turnaround from its 29-point loss to Creek in the District 16-5A championship game, Dillard showed its state championship mettle by rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit to stun Coconut Creek 48-46 and keep its drive for five alive.
“We’re Dillard, and we’re always going to be there,” Dillard Hall of Fame coach Marcia Pinder said. “We’re going to find a way.
“We are just so proud of these girls and these coaches coming up with schemes and different things we needed to do. It’s hard to beat a team two, three or four times. So you have to do something different and see if it works.”
It was sweet revenge for the Panthers, who stewed privately after the Cougars proclaimed a changing of the guard in the district following a regular-season victory at Dillard and then cut down the nets to celebrate its lopsided District 16-5A victory.
Dillard’s Amber Lee scored 18 of her game-high 21 points in the second half.
Lee scored 18 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and Grier made her presence felt with a team-high 14 rebounds, three blocks and provided the defensive energy by diving for loose balls on at least four occasions.
“We are trying to get another ring,’’ Lee said. “I had to come through for my team. I couldn’t let them down. I want another ring. We are hungry and we have to go eat. Coach Pinder said if we want it, we have to go get it. It’s a dog fight. We have to go fight. I couldn’t let my team down. I knew I had to step up if we were going to win.”
Dillard advances to the regional final on Friday when it will face Rockledge.
Lee’s layup from an out-of-bounds play with 5:04 left in the fourth put the Panthers up 40-38 and set the stage for a classic ending between the upstart Cougars and a storied Dillard program unwilling to relinquish its hold on its dynasty-like run.
Paul, who has become the emotional leader in Green’s absence continued her box score stuffing play with 12 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and five steals for the Panthers. Tierra Wilks added six points and Jade Wyatt had seven points, none bigger than the bank shot she sank with three seconds left in the third quarter to give Dillard a 36-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“I think Creek came in a little too confident,’’ Paul said. “We already knew when we came into this gym that we were going to take this win.”
Delise Williams led the Cougars with 10 points, Tanease Richardson added seven points and Destiny Frazier had five points.
Coconut Creek was left wondering what might have been had they converted some crucial layups in crunch time.
Jacaira Allen had a chance to give the Cougars a lead with 2:07 left when she went coast to coast after a steal but her layup rolled off the rim. Then, after Lee converted two free throws to push Dillard’s lead to 46-43 with 12 seconds left, Destiny Frazier went coast to coast but missed another point-blank shot.
Lee was fouled after grabbing the rebound and put the finishing touches on her big night with two more free throws.
By time Cougars guard Destiny Frazier drained a three-point shot from halfcourt at the final buzzer, Dillard players, coaches and fans had already started to celebrate their improbably victory.
Trailing 35-28 late the third, Faith Nazario started the rally with a three pointer. Calvary Christian finished the game on a 17-7 run to end the game, holding CS Charter to five points in the 4th quarter.
But after a few minutes, Miami Country Day had wrecked those plans and taken control en route to another lopsided victory. Sagemont couldn’t contain Syracuse-signee Danielle Minott as she scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
No Sagemont player finished in double-digits, but senior Jessica Black finished with a team-high seven points.
SAGE (18-9): Provenzano 3, Black 7, Rucker 1, Smith 6, Jackson 2, Correa 2, Cole 3, Almadovar 3. MCD (23-3): Minott 22, Berry 11, Lewis 10, Alvarez 7, Mackenzie 3, Edwards 2, Anyagaligbo 8. Half: MCD 39-19. Fouled out: Correa, Anyagaligbo. Technicals: Correa. Three-pointers: Provenzano, Black, Smith 2, Almadovar, Alvarez 2, Minott 4, Lewis. Rebounds: Minott 12. Assists: Lewis 9. Steals: Minott 3.
Mompremier, one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2015, had 21 points, 23 rebounds and five blocks as the Stings advanced to the regional finals, where they will play host to Ferguson (22-6) on Saturday
The Stings, ranked No. 1 in the state by maxpreps.com, trailed Flanagan by eight points in the second quarter before closing the gap to 25-23 at halftime.
Miami High, which also got 16 points, four assists and three steals from senior point guard Amanda Mendoza, took control in the third quarter, outscoring Flanagan by 13 points.
Flanagan was led by 6-0 center Mikiah Harrigan with 22 points.
MH: Mompremier 21, Mendoza 16, Kimbrough 6, Reid 10, Alvin 4; FL: Harrigan 22, Wilborn 6, J. Oramos 8, S. Oramos 8;Half: F 25-23; 3-pointers: Mendoza 3, Kimbrough 1, Wilborn 2, J. Oramos 1, S. Oramos 1.
The Bucks advanced to the regional final for the first time since the 2004-05 season when they played in the state championship game.
“It’s a good feeling, but we know that we still got a lot of work,” said Bucks coach Portia Williams.”
Senior guard Morreonte’ Williams scored 15 points for the Bucks (19-8).
“This was like a championship game,” Morreonte’ Williams said.
The final quarter was as tight and physical as a championship game as the rivals from District 11-8A went back and forth in their fourth meeting of the season.
Douglas (18-8) held a 39-35 lead early in the fourth. At that point the Bucks turned up the defensive pressure on the Eagles on the perimeter as the Bucks forced the Eagles into multiple turnovers, which led to transition points for Morreonte Williams, guards Bri'nesha Powell, Tiara Walker and junior forward Victoria Hadler, who scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the second half.
The Bucks went on a 6-0 run, which was fueled by a Morreonte Williams’ 3-pointer to give the Bucks a 41-39 lead with 3:22 remaining.
Douglas retook a 42-41 lead on a 3-pointer by Deja Enos. That would be the last basket the Eagles scored as the Bucks closed the game on a 6-0 run, primarily from making its free throws and Douglas missing their free throws.
Douglas coach Larry Moore said the end of game free throws haunted the Eagles for the third consecutive season in the playoffs.
“You got to withstand the pressure,” Moore said. “You can’t miss three front ends of a 1-and-1 in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.”
The Bucks travel to Lake Worth to take on Park Vista on Saturday.
DB (19-8): Hadler 16, Williams 15, Powell 6, Walker 4, Price 4. Doug (18-8): Enos 13, Rampersad 12, Cooper 6, Robby 3, Arinus 2, Rosa 2. Halftime: Douglas 23-19. Three pointers: Williams 5, Rampersad 3, Enos 1, Mogent 1, Robby 1.