Javon Heastie (game-high 20 points) broke open a close game with three of his six three-pointers in the pivotal third quarter and LaQuincy Rideau (14 points, seven assists) set the defensive tone with nine steals as No. 7 USA Today Super 25 Blanche Ely kept its undefeated season and bid to win the Class 7A state title alive with the hard-fought 79-65 road victory.
Ely got pushed around and outhustled in the first half by the resurgent Rockets and held a tenuous 39-36 halftime lead before the Tigers ramped up defense and Heastie’s hot third quarter shooting quieted a raucous Rockets home crowd.
“I think the kids handled the loud crowd noise very well,” said Ely coach Melvin Randall. “They have worked so hard and they deserve this. We are trying to be the second team in Broward County to go undefeated and also move up in the ranks. I feel real blessed.”
Ely, seeking its third state title in four seasons under Randall, advances to face North Port in the state semifinals on Friday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Therrell Gosier led the Tigers inside with 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Diandre Wilson added 13 points. Anthony Wilson had 18 points and Phillip Saunders added 17 points for the Rockets.
Ely (26-0): Heastie 20, Gosier 19, Rideau 14, Taylor 2, Goodrum 5, Houston 6, Wilson 13. MC (25-5): Saunders 17, Turnier 13, Nunnally 2, Wilson 18, Nunnally 2, Occi 3, McFadden 6, Wynn 4. Half: Ely 39-36. Three-pointers: Heastie 6, Rideau 2, Saunders 3, Wilson 1. Goodrum 1, Rebounds: Gosier 12. Steals: Rideau 9. Assists: Rideau 7.
▪ Region 4-6A final: Norland 76, Pines Charter 69
Just seconds after his Miami Norland Vikings team had wrapped up its fourth straight trip to the state final four in Lakeland, coach Lawton Williams was overcome with emotion.
In a year that saw him lose seven players who transferred out, nobody gave his team any kind of realistic shot at getting back to Lakeland, let alone win a fourth consecutive state championship.
But that’s exactly the case as Norland, which led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, held off a ferocious rally by Pembroke Pines Charter to hang on and defeat the Jaguarsat Norland.
The Vikings (21-8) will take their shot at moving one step closer to a four-peat when they take on Tampa Jefferson in a state semifinal next Friday at a time to be determined.
“This is my youngest team, I had kids leave....transfer,” said Williams who then started to break down with emotion before collecting himself. “They didn’t believe in what we were doing but here we are again. I had seven kids transfer out so this meant a lot, especially to the kids that stayed and believed in the system and the program. It’s not about me it never has been. It’s about the kids that stayed, stuck it out and believed in what we were doing."
The one young man Williams could thank the most was Dewan Huell. One of the handful of kids who didn’t “bail” due to Williams’ regimented system that he demands kids adhere to, the junior took over the show on Saturday night as he wracked up 40 points (20 in each half) while pulling down eight boards and blocking four shots.
“This one was the most special because I had to lead my team back after everybody left and we still had that motto that we’ll get back to Lakeland anyway and here we go,” said Huell who needed 31 points to make it to 1,000 career points. “I knew I had to have my team’s back tonight and they had to have mine as well. I wanted to have a good game because if I had a good game and got 31 points, I’d be in the thousand point club so I guess I’m there.”
Huell’s three point play on a basket and foul as time expired in the first half gave the Vikings a 37-28 lead at the half and Norland contnued to pull away in the third quarter and led by as many as 20.
Still trailing 67-50 with just under six minutes left, the Jaguars (20-7) who were attempting to avoid a fourth consecutive year of being eliminated by Norland in regionals, rallied back. Led by Hanif Cheatham who would finish with 27 points, Pines went on a 14-4 run to cut Norland’s lead to 71-64 with 2:02 left. But the Vikings made enough free throws and created a few turnovers as it never got closer than the seven point margin.
Norland will not only go for its fourth straight title but sixth in the last 10 years as Williams is a perfect 10-0 in his five trips to Lakeland.
“We’re not finished,” said Williams. “I’ve never lost in Lakeland and I’m not about to start now.”
PC (20-7): Cheatham 27, Ferguson 12, Johnson 9, D. Harper 7, Denbow 6, Jones 3, M. Harper 3. NOR (21-8) Huell 40, White 10, Williams 8, Andre 7, Jones 6, Jean-Baptiste 5. 3-pointers: Williams, Andre, Johnson, D. Harper. Rebounds: Huell 8. Blocks: Huell 4 HALF: Nor. 37-28
▪ Region 4-8A final -- McArthur 66, South Miami 52:
McArthur is going to state for the first time in its history.
The Mustangs ousted South Miami in front of an electric crowd at home that rushed the floor to celebrate with the team at halfcourt when the clock hit triple zero.
"When [my staff] took this job three years ago we put a three-year plan in place. We told ourselves we were going to get further and further every year," McArthur coach Warren Gale said. "With my nine seniors, we said we were going to go to the state championship and win it all, and we're here."
McArthur (28-7), which avenged a loss to South Miami in the same round last season, will play a state semifinal against Wellington in Lakeland on Thursday night.
The Mustangs finished on a 12-1 run with Terrell Turner hitting back-to-back dagger three-pointers -- the second coming from the corner with 50 seconds remaining.
Turner had a game-high 13 points. Felix Rivera-Vega and Mike Cambridge each added 11 for McArthur, and Sandro Noel had nine points and eight rebounds.
Three players finished in double figures for South Miami (17-11), which had reached state the previous two seasons. Malik Davis came off the bench for a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in his final high school game.
MCA: Turner 13, Rivera-Vega 11, Boles 6, Cambridge 11, Noel 9, Jean 6, Tejada 7, Brown 2, Escobar 1. SM: Dawson 10, Davis 10, Barney 11, Lobue 8, Glover 5, Brown Jr. 8. Halftime: MCA 30-28. Three-pointers: Cambridge 3, Turner 3, Rivera-Vega 2, Tejada, Dawson 2, Lobue 2, Barney, Glover. Rebounds: Davis 10. Assists: Jean 7. Steals: Brown Jr. 5. Blocks: Glover 3.
▪ Region 3-8A final — Wellington 70, Douglas 57:Gordon Jupiter led all scorers with 27 points, but it was not enough to propel Stoneman Douglas into the state tournament.
Jupiter was 5-for-5 from behind the arc and helped erase a third quarter double-digit deficit. However, he missed his last three shots and the Wolverines finished the game on a 9-2 run to finalize the victory.
"He has brought us back before and I thought he was going to do it again tonight. He was on fire," Eagles coach Orlando McCorvey said. "We fell in love with the outside shot for a while as we had problems driving the lane and at the end we just did not get good shots."
Wellington, 27-3, advances to the first state tournament in the history of the school, while Douglas ends its season at 17-9.
The Wolverines were paced by Trent Frazier who scored 24 points and started the game by hitting his first four shots.
"Coach told me before the tip that I had to get more aggressive with the Rock and do more on offense," Frazier said. "We rebounded better as a team and played well in transition that led to easy layups."
Wellington coach Matt Colin was pleased with Frazier, his sophomore point guard.
"We told him in practice that we needed more from him and he gave it to us tonight," Colin said. "Trent attacked the glass hard and played real well with the ball in his hands."
WEL: Frazier 24, Bureau 12, Gates 3, Kwiatek 14, Dieudonne 10, Brown 7; SD: Knecht 6, Duroseau 3, Spadafora 2, Pemberton 2, Jupiter 27, Rottenberg 2, Affatati 9, Abalev 6. Three pointers - Bureau 4, Brown 1, Knecht 1, Jupiter 5, Affatati 1. Halftime 36-25 Wellington.
▪ Region 4-5A final — Cardinal Gibbons 49, Eustis 38A year ago, Maverick Rowan led his former high school to a state championship in Pennsylvania. Now the 6-7 junior is two steps from doing the same for Cardinal Gibbons.
Rowan’s 16 consecutive points spanning the second and third quarters propelled the Chiefs past a pesky Eustis squad, punching their ticket to the Class 5A final four.
Rowan finished with 32 points as Cardinal Gibbons (30-1) earned its first trip back to Lakeland since 2011. The Chiefs’ only loss came against Blanche Ely in the BCAA final in January.
“With Maverick Rowan, I became a good coach,” Gibbons coach Marty Siedlin quipped.
The Chiefs, ranked No.15 in the country by USA Today, had to endure a sluggish start as Eustis (23-7) employed a slowdown offense. The Panthers lumbered to a 7-2 lead before Rowan broke free for two inside baskets and a 3-pointer.
Gibbons outscored Eustis 20-8 the rest of the half to take control.
“If you come to play the regional final, you wouldn’t think they would hold the ball,” said Rowan. “They just weren’t that athletic. If they went up-and-down with us, I don’t think they would have any chance.”
Rowan transferred to Gibbons last summer from Lincoln Park Charter outside Pittsburgh, which captured Pennsylvania’s Class A title last year. Once a Pittsburgh commit, he reopened his recruitment after moving to South Florida.
Jose Morales added 11 points for the Chiefs, whose last visit to Lakeland left them as Class 4A runners-up in 2011. Marquavias Gordon led Eustis with 18 points.
CG: Maverick Rowan 32 points, Jose Morales 11, Greg Kacprzak 3, Jason Strong 2, Melvin Brooks 1. EU: Marquavias Gordon 18 points, Brendan Likely 10, C.J. Marshall 8, Simeon Golden 2.