By Gary Curreri
There will be no state championship three-peat for the Blanche Ely boys’ basketball team this season.
Palm Beach Lakes’ Daiquan Wyatt saw to it as he banked in a layup with just six seconds remaining to give the Rams (23-3) a 64-62 victory over the host Tigers in the Region 4-8A semifinal on Tuesday night.
Blanche Ely guard Mike Forrest missed a desperation three-point heave from just inside half-court at the buzzer setting off a wild celebration for the Rams and ended the Tigers bid for a sixth state championship under coach Melvin Randall.
It marked the second consecutive time that the Tigers (25-7) were stymied in the regional semifinals in a quest for a third straight state championship. After winning back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013, the Tigers fell to Boyd Anderson, 61-54. They also lost 70-57 in the regional semifinals to Dwyer in 2010.
Blanche Ely defeated Dwyer in the regional semifinal 75-56 in 2015 and again in last year’s regional quarterfinal, 57-52, en route to winning back-to-back Class 7A state titles.
Wyatt and Tyrese Mapp each scored 19 points for the Rams in the victory, while Lavorris Givins added 18.
“We’re just glad to stay alive,” said Palm Beach Lakes coach Lorenzo Hands following the contest. “[Blanche Ely] is a great team, well-coached. They’ve set the bar the past couple of years and that means we’re heading in the right direction, but we still have a way to go.”
Palm Beach Lakes carried a 32-30 lead into the locker room at the intermission and then flexed its muscle in the third period to start to pull away as it opened an eight-point, 54-46 lead and eventually carried a 6-point lead into the final quarter.
Blanche Ely, which faced a similar deficit in a regional quarterfinal win over Dwyer in overtime, were able to take a 58-56 lead with 2:27 remaining in the game when Joshua Scott converted two free throws. Forrest scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and Geremy Taylor delivered two free throws with 35.8 seconds remaining to knot the game at 62.
“We got off to a bad start,” Taylor said. “We came back from six points down in the fourth quarter. Mike (Forrest) hit a couple threes but we couldn’t pull it through. This is very disappointing.”
Jordan Strowbridge had a team-high 16 points for the Tigers, while Taylor and Forrest each finished 13 points.