That growing bandwagon carrying the “Jacaira Allen for Class 5A Player of the Year” election committee got even more crowded after the show Dillard’s latest big star put on at the BCAA Big 8 girls’ basketball championship on Saturday.
Allen, the tournament MVP, poured in a game-high 21 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had 10 steals to lead Dillard (23-1, ranked No.9 by USA Today) past upset-minded Flanagan 47-34 at South Plantation High School.
“This is just another step forward for us,” Allen said. “This is just helping us get ready for states. “Every team from here on out will be a tough game. Every one is out to get us. We are No.9 in the nation. We have to be ready. We can’t be caught sleeping.”
Flanagan, behind coach Latravis Bernard, had designs on making Dillard its second upset victim in a row after shocking Class 5A No.1 Nova 60-50 in the semifinals, but Allen would have none of it.
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Allen scored 12 of Dillard’s first 18 points, highlighted by an acrobatic reverse layup that left the partisan Dillard crowd gasping, to put Dillard up 20-15 midway through the second quarter and then scored two key baskets down the stretch to keep Flanagan (19-6) at bay.
Dillard Hall of Fame coach Marcia Pinder, not one to be easily impressed, said Allen has that rare quality to raise the intensity level of her teammates by the play she brings to each game.
“Jacaira has so much energy,” Pinder said. “When she is laid-back, we are laid-back. When she comes out with a lot of energy like she did [Saturday night], the whole team feeds off it.”
Flanagan guard Jennifer Oramas scored eight points, and 6-2 junior Mikiah Harrigan continued to enhance her stock with 10 points, a game-high 21 rebounds and five blocks.
“We got a lot of respect in this tournament,” Harrigan said. “We have faced a lot of adversity and played our hardest. We have bigger and better things coming up. Beating Nova was a huge win. We are very confident heading into districts. Nobody can look past us.”
With 12 seconds left in the second quarter, Harrigan grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a putback to cut the lead to 22-21. But Dillard’s Amber Lee tossed in the first of her three three-pointers right before the second-quarter buzzer to help Dillard claim a 25-21 halftime lead.
Harrigan fueled Flanagan’s last-gasp run with back-to-back layups to cut the lead to 38-33 with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter only to see Dillard turn up its defense to reclaim the Big 8 championship. Jade Wyatt converted a layup off a Jamesha Paul steal for a 40-33 lead
Courtney Parson and Wyatt added a steal each, leading to Allen’s back-to-back layups for a 44-33 lead with 2:50 left.
In the three-point competition, Blanche Ely’s Kanesha Battle, who is averaging a Florida big-school-leading 28 points per game, drained 11 three-pointers to win the title.
Flan (19-5): Lubin 4, Marquez 5, Oramas 8, Harrigan 10, Wilburn 3, Cogdell 3. Dill (23-1): Paul 6, Allen 21, Wyatt 5, Lee 9, Parson 6. Half: Dill 25-21. Three-pointers: Lee 3. Rebounds: Harrigan 21, Allen 18. Steals: Allen 10.