You could go for the easy pun and say Blanche Ely gave Dillard a ‘battle’ in Thursday night’s BCAA Big 8 girls’ basketball quarterfinal game at South Plantation.
Yet this was more than that.
This was epic.
Three Battle sisters combined to score 63 of Ely’s 70 points, and the youngest of the trio had a potential game-tying shot cued up just before the buzzer.
But it wasn’t mean to be. Not for Ely. Tyesha Battle’s shot missed, and mighty Dillard did what it usually does, powering to a hard-fought 73-70 win over the upset-minded Tigers.
Senior guard Kanesha Battle scored a game-high 31 points; junior guard Brianna Battle had 26 points and sophomore guard Tyesha Battle had six points. All of them hit a pair of three-pointers.
“We didn’t close out on them very well,” Dillard coach Marcia Pinder said of Ely’s Battle sisters. “They just throw it up – lucky shooters.”
When pressed about the “lucky” comment, Pinder responded: “Sometimes … come on, now.”
Dillard (16-4 and ranked fifth in The Herald’s poll of top teams Dade/Broward teams) advanced to face No. 8 South Broward (19-6) in the Big 8 semifinals.
With one more win, Dillard will be in the championship game for the ninth time in the past decade.
On Thursday, while the Battle sisters – all of them 5-6 or shorter – were running around making shots, Dillard got the ball inside. Genovea Johnson, a 5-8 freshman wing, led Dillard with 24 points. And 5-11 senior forward Jacaira Allen, a Mississippi State recruit, added 17 points.
Allen had just four points at halftime as Ely took a 32-31 lead. Johnson (11 points) and Allen (eight) came alive in the third quarter, but Ely kept its slim advantage, leading 51-50 heading into the fourth.
Dillard led by 10 points, 68-58, with two minutes left, but Brianna Battle, who had nine points in the fourth quarter, and Kanesha Battle (eight points) would not quit.
After Allen made just one of two free throws with six seconds left, ninth-ranked Ely (16-4) got one more chance and would have forced overtime had Tyesha’s last shot gone down.
Ely, which had won nine straight games since losing 85-60 to Dillard on Dec. 12, has clearly improved since its first meeting with the Panthers.
“I’m proud of my team,” Kanesha Battle said. “We came up a bit short, but we played pretty well. Even though we lost by a couple, it felt pretty good.”
▪ Dillard 73, Blanche Ely 70
Ely (16-4): K.Battle 31, B.Battle 26, T.Battle 6, McGee 5, Johnson 2. Dil (16-4): Johnson 24, Allen 17, Woods 3, Wilks 9, Huggins 3, Grier 6, Lee 2, Emmanuel 9. Half: Ely 32-31; 3-pointers: K.Battle 2, B.Battle 2, T.Battle 2, Huggins, Emmanuel, Woods, Wilks.
▪ South Broward 53, Deerfield Beach 39: Shante Walker had 17 points, Alexis McClain had 13 points and Natalia Leaks added 12 points to lead the Bulldogs to their fourth win in a row. In the Big 8 semifinals, they will try to avenge a 50-47 loss to Dillard that they suffered in their season opener.
SB: Walker 17, McClain 13, Leaks 12, Wright 4, Sadaka 2. DB: Dervil 4, Stephens 2, Swinton 9, Mitchell 7, Burton 11, Shell 6. Half: SB 26-16; 3-pointers: Walker 2, Leaks, Mitchell, Swinton.
▪ Nova 47, Cardinal Gibbons 43: Nova used a 17-point third quarter to rally past Gibbons in a defensive-minded game. Freshman guard Gabrielle Gonzalez had 15 points, and sophomore guard Samaria August added 11 points to lead Nova.
Nova: Gonzalez 15, August 11, Gutierrez 7, Cowart 9, Salim 5. CG: Antoine 21, Armstead 12, Cohen 8, Tumminello 2. Half: CG 21-18. 3-pointers: Gonzalez 2, Salim, Antoine.