Blanche Ely (Fla.) won a physical, nip-and-tuck game against Richland Northeast, 61-54, to advance to the Classic I bracket championship game in the Chick-fil-A Classic on Friday at Richland Northeast.
“It’s disappointing , because we contributed to a lot of their points because we couldn’t handle their pressure,” said Cavaliers coach Jason Powell, whose team will play for third place on Saturday against Wheeler (Ga.) High.
The game featured 17 3-point buckets, the Tigers posting nine, and the host Cavaliers notching eight. Blanche Ely’s Richard Lee led the game five 3-pointers. Richland Northeast’s Devante Anderson and Quiron Cooke each made three.
Anderson started the second half with consecutive 3’s that put Richland Northeast ahead 35-31, but Blanche Ely’s Lee hit his fourth 3-pointer to close the gap.
The Cavaliers never led by more than five, and Blanche Ely nipped at those leads eagerly.
The Tigers pulled ahead by one with nine minutes to go, but Richland Northeast’s Aaron Scott hit a 3 to re-up the Cavaliers. Still with eight minutes left, the game was tied again.
A Kendall Benjamin tip-in and a 3-pointer from Quiron Cooke put Richland Northeast up 47-42 at the 5:55 mark.
But with 1:28 to go it was the Tigers who were ahead by five.
Cooke hit another 3 with less than a minute to go, but the Cavaliers, who won their first game of the tournament with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime, could not break through.
The Cavaliers were 8-of-14 from the free-throw line, with 18 turnovers, compared to Blanche Ely’s 12-of-19 free throw shooting and seven turnovers.
“Those kind of games, if you don’t make free throws and you make a lot of turnovers, you’re not going to win,” Powell said.
The squads’ 3-point shootout began early.
Cooke’s first 3-pointer put the Cavaliers up in the first two minutes, but Blanche Ely exploited an RNE defensive hole, three times hitting 3-point buckets from the corner to forge ahead by 7.
Anderson tightened that gap with consecutive buckets
Lee’s trio of first-half 3’s helped Blanche Ely stay out front for a while, but Aaron Scott’s driving layup put Richland Northeast at two-points back with a minute to go. And Anderson hit two free throws to set the halftime score at 29 all.