With a 64-59 upset of Class 7A No. 5 Palm Beach Dwyer at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Classic on Saturday, McArthur hopes to squash all the talk about its self-destructing tendencies against elite teams.
Star guard Derric Jean poured in a team-high 14 points on highlight-reel drives to the basket and Terrell Turner added 12 points, including two key baskets down the stretch, to help the Mustangs (13-5) hold off the heavily favored Panthers (18-3) at Ransom Everglades.
It was the confidence-restoring victory coach Warren Gale’s squad desperately needed after the turnover bug bit late in back-to-back losses to Pines Charter and Flanagan.
“When we play this way, we can compete with anybody,” Jean said. “This is a big win that could take us to a state championship. Coach always gets on us in practice about turning the ball over. [Saturday] we got our heads together and played hard and picked up the win.”
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A big night from 6-7 forward Corey Brown (13 points) and Sandro Noel (11 points) helped the Mustangs dominate inside.
When the Mustangs (13-5) take care of the ball, as they did during a second-quarter spurt, they are a viable threat to win the Class 8A state title.
Junior 6-5 forward Donnell Boles provided the spark off the bench with eight points to help the Mustangs build a 24-14 second-quarter lead.
Boles started things with a jump hook off the right baseline and then converted a tough left-handed layup while being fouled with 5:47 left in the second quarter as the lead grew to 10 points.
“My role is to rebound, but when I saw the lane open a few times I took the chance,” Boles said. “I saw that was working for me in this game. This was a big victory because we weren’t even supposed to be in this game.”
The perplexing, unforced turnovers that have plagued McArthur on occasion reappeared after the Mustangs built their 24-14 lead, and Dwyer capitalized with a 9-1 spurt and closed to within 27-26 with 1:16 left.
McArthur regrouped in the third quarter, however, and took a tenuous 49-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
Turner found Brown for a layup to extend the lead to 58-50 with 2:16 left, Turner added a layup and Noel put the icing on the cake when he threw down a two-handed dunk off a pass for a 62-55 lead.
“What really hurt our ballhandling is Derric getting three fouls in the first half,” Gale siad. “In the second half, when we were able to keep Derric on the floor, we were able to break Dwyer’s pressure pretty easily.”
Rejuvenated Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, winners of seven in a row entering the MLK, threw a scare into Class 7A No. 6 Palm Beach Lakes but lost 46-43. Sidney Umude, playing with a renewed vigor during the Raiders’ hot streak, scored a team-high 14 points for the Raiders, including back-to-back baskets that put Aquinas ahead 41-40 with 2:09 left.
Aquinas had a chance to win the game with 3.5 seconds left, but Lester Gates stole the inbounds pass and converted a layup for the winning margin.
McArthur 64, Dwyer 59: McA (13-5): Jean 15, Tejada 4, Brown 13, Turner 12, Boles 8, Noel 11. Dwyer (18-3): Gaines 9, Anders 7, Luke 4, Warthen 16, Cherima 2, Agnew 1, A. Davis 6, Gonzalez 9, McDonough 5. Half: McA 31-27. Three-pointers: Gaines 1, Anders 1, McDonough 1, Jean 1. Rebounds: Brown 12.
Palm Beach Lakes 46, St. Thomas Aquinas 43: PBL (14-4): Rideau 7, Gates 12, St. Fort 14, Rampeau 7, Coleman 3, Quince 3. STA (14-7): Aroucho 7, Eisler 2, Marshall 5, Umude 14, Hunter 7, Metzger 8. Three-pointers: Coleman 1, St. Fort 3, Gates 1, Aroucho 1.