After Taravella’s Anthony Biggs and McArthur’s Nate Johnson played to a 14-14 draw in a first half shootout, McArthur’s lesser-known players stepped in to save the Mustangs’ from near disaster in the BCAA Big 8 Boys Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Taravella rallied from a 53-44 deficit with 5:40 left to close within 56-53 with 2:32 left on a Biggs’ layup off a Marcus Cassesa steal and look-ahead pass but Kheron Millwood and Jamari Belvin hit three of four free throws in the closing seconds as McArthur hung on for a 61-53 victory at Fort Lauderdale.
“It was definitely a little too close for my taste,” said McArthur coach Warren Gale. “But we have been playing good basketball down the stretch of games so our kids were prepared for it.”
The Mustangs will need a much more rounded effort for any shot at an upset against top-seed Dillard in the semifinals on Friday at 8.
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What was billed as a shootout between Biggs and Johnson didn’t disappoint as two of the state’s most-exciting scorers turned the first half into their personal game of H-O-R-S-E.
Biggs scored Taravella’s first 10 points, outscoring McArthur 10-2 by himself to finish with 14 first half points. The quick jumping Johnson answered with 14 of his 18 points in the first half, including a pair of three-pointers.
After the slow start, McArthur got out in the open court — its strength, and took a 38-29 halftime lead on Jamari Belvin’s three-pointer and Mike Labastille side-stepping three defenders for a nifty layup with 15 seconds left before halftime. Luis Escobar added 16 points for McArthur.
Cassesa scored seven of his 10 points in the second half to keep Taravella within striking distance.
▪ MCA (17-8): Johnson 18, Millwood 9, Escobar 16, Labastille 7, Brown 6, Belvin 5. TAR (18-7): Cassesa 10, Thornton 5, Smith 5, Biggs 23, Fitschen 3, Pierre 7. HT: MCA 38-29. Three-pointers: Johnson 2, Escobar 4, Belvin, Fitschen.
▪ Blanche Ely 74, Coral Springs 73: In the other Big 8 quarterfinal, Blanche Ely staged a frenetic fourth quarter comeback to stun Coral Springs 74-73. The Colts took a 58-53 lead into the fourth quarter only to watch Trevor Goodrum score the game-winning layup on an out of bounds play with 24.1 seconds left. Ely’s Michael Forrest hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 73-72 with a minute left. Coral Springs had a chance to add to the lead but Myron Dewar’s pass to Herve Mompoint went out of bounds with 35 seconds left, setting up Goodrum’s heroics. Dewar (23 points) had a chance to put the Colts ahead after getting fouled by Goodrum with 2.4 seconds left but missed the first free throw attempt and the Colts were called for a lane violation on the second attempt, sealing the Tigers’ comeback. Ely will face Nova in the 6:30 semifinal on Friday. Ely got a huge lift from the sophomore Forrest who finished with 20 points. Goodrum added 15 points. Trevon White led Coral Springs with 25 points.
▪ CS (15-7): C. Lucien 11, Carey 5, Mompoint 2, Dewar 23, White 25, Fils 7. BE (14-11): Taylor 9, Smith 5, Maloney 2, Goodrum 15, Scott 16, Forrest 20, Stampley 7. Three-pointers: Forrest 4, Goodrum 2, Smith, C. Lucien, Carey, White. HT: BE 42-39.