Blanche Ely holds off furious Dillard comeback to claim rivalry victory

Adam Lichtenstein, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Blanche Ely vs. Dillard basketball games tend to be close, so when the Tigers took a 14-point lead into halftime, a Panthers comeback may as well have been inevitable.

Dillard launched a furious comeback in the second half, tying the game up with seconds left to play, but Blanche Ely held on to a narrow lead and beat the Panthers 70-68 on a pair of last-second free throws in Pompano Beach on Saturday.

“Well, you’ve got to understand that it’s the biggest rivalry in Florida,” Ely coach Brent Maffett said. “For the rivalry and the pride, everything’s going to be there, so it’s just a matter of being able to fight and dig and figure it out.”

The Tigers cruised through the first half, building a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter that extended to 14 points at the end of the half.

But Dillard came charging back after halftime, outscoring Ely 24-14 in the third quarter. Brennen Whyte led the way for the Panthers, scoring nine of his 19 points in the third quarter.

The Tigers kept ahold of their lead for most of the fourth quarter, keeping Dillard at bay. Ely built an eight-point lead before Dillard cut it back down on a pair of baskets and a free throw by Jemetri Bernet.

The Panthers tied the game up in the last minute on a pair of three-pointers, but a costly three-point shooting foul sent Jaylen Black to the line to shoot three foul shots. Black made two of the three with 1.2 seconds left to play, sealing the victory for Blanche Ely.

“Last game, we missed 18 free throws and (missed) one and ones, so we left 20-something points off the board,” said Maffett, who took over the program in September. “So it’s just a matter of getting in here, shooting free throws, our concentration, being able to do the simple things to extend the game and finish it out and close the game out.”