Under Melvin Randall’s coaching tenure at Blanche Ely, the boys’ basketball team has won 10 consecutive games and five championships at the state tournament since 2007.
With the Tigers’ 73-58 victory over St. Petersburg in the Class 8A semifinal at the RP Funding Center on Friday, they’ll play for their sixth championship when advancing to the final.
Ely (23-8) will play Creekside (27-4) on Saturday at 4:30 in the 8A title game.
Randall can break the tie with Dillard’s Darryl Burrows for most Broward boys’ state basketball championships at seven. On Friday, he improved to 15-1 all-time at the state finals and an eighth championship would be rewarding.
“I feel very blessed,” Randall said. “I’ve had good assistants and players that have made me look good over the years. I’m good friends with Darryl, so I must win Saturday because I want to be one up on Darryl.”
The Tigers have pounded St. Petersburg in the three times they have faced each other. They won 62-29 in the 7A semifinal in 2012 and again in the 2016 Class 7A championship 84-70, before Friday’s win.
On Friday, Joshua Scott scored 26 points to lead the Tigers, Anthony Byrd had 22 points and Michael Forrest added 18 points.
Forrest, who was averaging 33.6 points per game since the district tournament, felt comfortable sharing the ball.
“I felt I could give them the ball without wasting a lot of energy and trust that they would do good with the ball,” Forrest said. “They stepped up and helped relieved the pressure off me.”
“My coaches have told me the whole season to be aggressive.” Scott said. “I took advantage of it tonight and didn’t even know I scored 26.”
Ely took a 25-23 lead late in the second quarter and never relinquished it. They outscored the Green Devils, who haven’t won a state title since 1933, 44-33 in the second half.
The key to the rout was Ely made 22 of its 25 free-throw attempts in the second half.
“We had a shaky start with the free throws in the first half,” Randall said. “Again, we turned it around and began playing Tigers basketball. We settled down after we were anxious at the start. The seniors stepped up and they did a good job in making my look good.”
Serrel Smith led St. Petersburg (23-6) with a game-high 36 points, while taking 26 of his team’s 58 shots.
BE (23-8): Scott 8-10-26, Isnord 2-1-5, Byrd 4-11-22, Forrest 6-5-18, Francois 1-0-2. SP (23-6): Babb 1-0-2, Anderson 2-1-5, Ta. Strickland 4-1-10, Smith 11-11-36, Te. Strickland 0-1-1, Earley 1-0-2. Three-pointers: Byrd 3, Forrest, Smith 3, Ta. Strickland. Half: BE 29-25.