MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) played like an unbeaten team Thursday at the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals, but Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) played like a college team when it mattered for a 63-50 win.
Third-seeded Ely (28-1) came into the tournament quarterfinals with a state 7A title under its belt, but was at a significant height disadvantage against the sixth-seeded Pilots (29-2). Early on, that didn’t matter as Ely’s ballhawking defense led to numerous fast-break opportunities. The Tigers led by as many as seven points late in the first half, but Findlay’s bigs began to assert themselves.
“My guys fought hard,” said Ely coach Melvin Randall. “As you can see, the factor was size. I’ve been having problems with that, but the size of (his players) hearts are pretty big. I’m still proud of them. ”
The Pilots were led by Allonzo Trier, who despite playing yesterday in Chicago at the McDonald’s All America Game and then flying here this morning on roughly two hours of sleep, had 18 points. He’ll have a chance to catch up on his sleep before playing in a semifinal Friday at 3 p.m. between the winner of Montverde (Fla.) Academy and Greensboro (N.C.) Day.
“I just wanted to bring energy and focus to the game,” Trier said. “I’m sure I was moving a little slower than I thought I was. I did my best to focus.”
Findlay trailed 44-40 late in the third quarter when it went on a 14-8 run to put the game away, fueled by a zone defense that just dared the Tigers to try to take it inside. Justin Jackson and P.J. Washington had three blocks each, with all but one coming late in the game. Washington had just two points in the first half but finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson had 16 points and six rebounds.
” I am extremely proud of these guys,” Findlay Prep coach Andy Johnson said. “All year long, we preached toughness and in the fourth quarter, it showed. One of our keys was to dirty up the paint and use our size and length on closeouts. We wanted to contain Javon Heastie and LaQuincy Rideau and I thought we did a good job on those guys.”
While Heastie had 16 points and Rideau had 15 for Ely, they shot a combined 10-for-34, or 29.4%
“I was just able to capitalize on opportunities,” Jackson said. “It started with defensive pressure. We had to pick it up because not everyone was feeling good.”