Dillard’s Raiquan Gray and Robert Johnson have played supporting roles to Jordan Wright but shared the leading role in helping Dillard break away from Blanche Ely after halftime for the BCAA Big 8 championship on Saturday.
In a game changing move, Dillard coach Darryl Burrows shifted the 6-8 Gray, a Florida State signee to point guard after halftime, and Johnson was the beneficiary as the two help deliver the decisive spurt in a 72-61 victory at Fort Lauderdale High School.
The RMF Magazine No. 2 Dillard held a 28-27 halftime lead before the Gray-Johnson tandem sparked a 21-6 run which helped the Panthers beat Ely for the second consecutive time in the Big 8 Finals.
Gray hit a pull up jumper for a 38-29 lead, Johnson had a steal and layup and then brought some of the Dillard faithful to their feet by throwing down a two-handed dunk off a look away pass from Gray to push the lead to 52-35 with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
Johnson finished with 17 points, Gray had 11 points and Bryce Oliver added 12.
The game had a state championship feel to it, as a capacity crowd turned out to see if Ely (RMF No. 6) could avenge a 68-62 loss to Dillard in last year’s Final when Wright had a game-high 27 points.
Wright finished with 18 points and won Tournament MVP but deferred to Johnson and Gray in the pivotal third quarter when Dillard made its biggest run. The Kentucky prized football recruit scored six points in the first quarter but due in large part to excellent man-to-man defense played by Ely’s Nicholas Stampley, couldn’t get anything going in the second quarter until draining a dagger three-pointer to beat the second quarter buzzer which was equivalent to a punch to the gut for the Tigers before halftime.
Ely’s Calvin McCutcheon appeared to give the Tigers the big play they were looking before halftime with a three-point play after a steal at half court and driving layup while being fouled by John Sellers with 5.1 seconds left in the second quarter for a 27-25 Ely lead. But Wright, in a scene eerily similar to last year’s Big 8 final when his dagger three-pointer to beat the third quarter buzzer catapulted Dillard to victory, caught a half-court shot and calmly sank a shot from behind NBA three-point distance as Dillard stormed into the locker-room with a 28-27 halftime lead.
Ely’s Geremy Taylor came alive for 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter points to help Ely mount a last gasp rally but Wright converted a three-point play with 1:16 left to give Dillard da 68-57 lead and end all hope of a Ely comeback. Michael Forrest added 14 points for Ely.