Ely goes back-to-back

Posted on 24 March 2016 by LeslieM

sports032416By Gary Curreri

When it comes to boys’ basketball at Blanche Ely High School, Coach Melvin Randall doesn’t rebuild. He doesn’t reload. He just finds a way to repeat.

Despite early struggles this season, the Tigers (20-13) found a way to roll off five wins in a row at the end of the season to win its second consecutive Class 7A state championship with an 84-70 victory over St. Petersburg at the Lakeland Center.

St. Petersburg (27-7) had won 12 in a row and 18 of 19 – the only loss was a 62-61 defeat to Wellington. Blanche Ely’s victory was the sixth overall for the school and fourth in the past five years, and fifth since 2007.

It was all a setup,” Ely coach Melvin Randall joked following the contest. “We took all the losses we could so we could come in the back door and do this again. Seriously, though, this team could have laid down, but they worked extremely hard, and, as a result, we’re state champions. This is sweeter even than 28-0.”

Randall was referring to last season’s 28-0 mark. This year’s team started off slowly, but, like most years, found a way to peak at the right time and helped Randall win a state-record seventh state championship as a coach. With the win, Randall surpassed Miami Norland coach Lawton Williams III, and Dillard’s Darryl Burrows, who each have six state titles.

Despite returning just three players from last year’s squad, Randall said it took time for the team to put things together. Injuries didn’t help either as the Tigers found itself at 12-11 at one point late in the season, including a four-game losing skid at one point – something Randall had never experienced in his illustrious 24-year career where he has amassed 555 victories.

It has been an up and down year,” Randall said. “The youngsters started peaking at the right time. I think a lot of it had to do with the schedule that I presented to them. We definitely took some beatings, but we played against the best.

I thought they had it in them,” Randall said. “They kept their composure when they had to. I am just pleased. There were times during the season where I had to grab myself and realize how young they are. We had to keep fighting and keep fighting. As a coach, I could have laid down and made excuses that I had all babies and was just going to burn this year, but the kids just fought and fought and, as a result, we finished the job.”

In the title game, junior forward William Maloney finished with a game-high 20 points, while junior guard Geremy Taylor posted a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Senior forward Trevor Goodrum Jr. (12 points, three steals and three rebounds); sophomore guard Michael Forrest (12 points); freshman power forward Joshua Scott (11 points) and senior guard Mark Houston (10 points) all contributed to the title.

We always felt like we had it in us to come together,” Goodrum said. “We just had to join together as a team and work hard at practice. That was the way we were going to go back to states. We had to go all out and come together as a team and, once we did that, we knew it would happen.”

Goodrum said there were doubts.

We knew we had to stay together as a team,” he added. “We were a family and we knew if we stayed together we could do whatever we wanted to accomplish. The only thing on my mind was getting another ring. I wanted two on my fingers.”

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