Blanche Ely, (USA Today Super 25 No. 12) weathered a 28-point outburst by Cardinal Gibbons star guard Jose Morales, put the clamps on his more highly touted 6-6 running mate Maverick Rowan and beat USA Today No. 15 Cardinal Gibbons 69-63 for the BCAA Big 8 boys' championship, which has probably put the Tigers in the running for a National title.
An overflow crowd at Fort Lauderdale High school that turned out for the first matchup of top 15 nationally ranked teams in Broward gave the game a state championship game atmosphere on Saturday.
“We showed that we can play a half court game like Gibbons too,” said Ely coach Melvin Randall said. “Not only one in transition. We did a good job of our half-court offense and knocking down shots and making good passes. We woke up defensively in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.”
While Morales, Rowan and Ely guard LaQuincy Rideau received most of the pre-game buzz, it was Ely’s Diandre Wilson (11 points) who emerged as the unlikely hero with a key strip of Morales and look- ahead pass to Mark Houston for a 66-63 Ely lead 40 seconds left and an excellent defensive job to hold Rowan to 21 points.
Randall, who appears on the brink of winning a sixth state title, showed once against why he is regarded as a defensive genius, formulating a game plan that revolved around crowding Rowan on the catch and contesting each shot.
Despite, giving up five inches to Rowan, Wilson was up to the task as the primary defender on Rowan throughout the game.
“Gibbons really only has two main scorers, Jose and Maverick,” Wilson said. “We tried to make it very hard for Maverick. I tried to deny Maverick and make every shot difficult. I watched him yesterday against Dillard. He likes to go through screens and do that one dribble pull up. When he did that I stripped down on the ball.”
Ely’s LaQuincy Rideau had 16 points and five steals to win Tournament MVP, Javon Heastie added 15 points, including two big three-pointers to stem a Gibbons' run and Therrell Gosier added 11 points.
Morales almost single-handedly kept Gibbons in contention for the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School national Tournament in April with a torrid shooting night, highlighted by five of five from three-point and 12 points in the third quarter.
But in the end, it was Ely’s championship defensive mettle which turned the game in Ely’s favor.
Gibbons was poised to go ahead after Rowan hit a three-pointer with 1:31 left to tie the score 63-63 and then blocked Heastie’s floater but Wilson intercepted a lob meant for Rowan, made one of two free throws before coming up with the biggest play of the game, his strip of Morales.
Rowan was called for a technical foul with 3.8 seconds left, leading to Rideau hitting one of two free throws and Wilson a pair of free throws for the final margin.
BCAA Big 8 boys’ championship — Blanche Ely 69, Cardinal Gibbons 63: Ely (22-0): Rideau 16, Gosier 11, Houston 10, Wilson 13, Goodrum 4, Heastie 15. CG (25-1): Morales 28, Rowan 21, Brooks 2, Kacprazak 6, McIntosh 6. Half: CG 30-28. Three-pointers: Morales 5, Rowan 2, Houston 2, Wilson 1, Heastie 2, Rideau 1. Rebounds: Brooks 13, Gosier 6. Steals: Rideau 7. Assists: Rideau 5.