Dillard didn’t want to look back for a second until the journey was complete.
After an eight-year drought, one of Broward’s all-time best boys’ basketball programs was a state champion again.
“I’ve never brought [our winning streak] or anything else to these kids during the season because I didn’t want them worrying about all of that until it was all said and done,” Dillard coach Darryl Burrows said. “Once we settle down after this, we’ll talk about everything we’ve done.”
Led by another masterful performance from junior Jordan Wright (21 points and nine rebounds), the Panthers wore down Largo for a 66-55 victory that secured the Class 6A state championship at The Lakeland Center.
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Dillard (28-5) won its sixth state championship, giving the Fort Lauderdale school the most of any Broward County team along with Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, which also won its sixth state title Saturday in Class 7A.
Burrows coached the Panthers during all six championship seasons and became the first Broward County coach to win six at one school. Burrows joined Miami Norland’s Lawton Williams III as the only coaches to accomplish that feat statewide.
Blanche Ely’s Melvin Randall has the most overall with seven, but he won his fifth at Ely on Saturday and won his other two at Deerfield Beach.
“It’s always great to get another one, but it’s not so much the rings, it’s coming to this tournament and being the last team remaining in your class,” Burrows said. “The new faces on this team keep me going. I just hope to contribute something to them that will help make them good young men.”
Burrows didn’t want his team to get caught up in the hype or pressure that comes with a long winning streak. But as the wins piled up, the Panthers remained steady on their way to finishing the season on a winning streak that reached 20 games.
As it did in Friday’s semifinal, Dillard got off to a slow start against Largo (23-7) and trailed 16-12 after one quarter.
Wright and forward Raiquan Gray battled Largo’s frontcourt throughout the second quarter, and after having difficulty converting numerous second chances at the rim in the previous period, found some rhythm and built a slim lead by halftime.
Dijon Farquharson’s three-pointer early in the third capped a 9-0 run following a Largo free throw as the Panthers took their first double-digit lead — one that grew to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter — and dominated for the remainder of the contest.
“We were a little sluggish again [Saturday], but [having played the late game Friday] we didn’t get to bed until probably after [midnight],” Burrows said. “We knew Largo was going to be very scrappy and we knew we would have an advantage inside.”
But the Panthers overcame any early offensive woes with solid man-to-man defense that forced five Largo turnovers in the first quarter and 10 in the half.
Sophomore Bryce Oliver gave Dillard a spark offensively in the second half and finished with 11 points.
Gray finished with only nine points and fouled out with 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter, but he had 10 rebounds and shared in the effort to again establish Dillard’s dominance in the paint.
“We came out and played a lot harder in the second half,” Wright said. “They were a smaller team and we just wore them down.”
Burrows once led Dillard to four consecutive state championships from 2000 to ’03. With only four seniors on Dillard’s roster, none of whom is a starter, Burrows said he saw a lot of potential for his current squad to make a prolonged state championship run.
“If these guys stay hungry and continue to build their skill level, it can happen,” Burrows said. “The future is very, very bright if these guys continue to work on their craft and work hard in the classroom. If they do those things, there’s no reason they can’t succeed on the basketball court.”
DIL (28-5): Wright 21, Oliver 11, Gray 9, Johnson 8, Gadson 6, Farquharson 5, Garner 3, Sellers 1, Johnson 2. LAR (23-7): Roundtree 6, Drayton 9, Cooney 3, Thomas 6, Allen 10, Deliu 5, Bellamy 4, Lockett 2, Robinson 10. Half: DIL 26-24. Fouled out: Allen, Gray. Technical: Drayton. Three-pointers: Thomas 2, Allen 2, Oliver, Farquharson, Robinson. Rebounds: Gray 10. Assists: Gray, Johnson, Cooney 3. Steals: Wright, Oliver 4. Blocks: Drayton 4.