Familiar foes. Familiar result.
Host Blake (27-2) turned away Jesuit (24-5) for the third time this season in a FHSAA 4A regional semifinal. The Yellow Jackets pulled away in the second half en route to a 55-32 victory over the Tigers Tuesday night.
Blake has had trouble getting going early the last two games. Ask coach Winston Davis and he’ll tell you he emphasized to his team that they couldn’t afford another slumbering start. They heeded his call. Clarence Peterson got them going with a three point basket on Blake’s first shot of the game.
While mistakes kept Jesuit in the game early, Blake seemed in control. When Jesuit took a 13-9 lead early in the second quarter, senior guard and Winthrop University commit Andre Smith exploded for eight unanswered points to give the Yellow Jackets a lead they never relinquished.
All season, Blake has relied on Andre Smith plus junior Brandon Channer and their nearly 35 points per game average combined. Smith led all scorers with 21 points, including four three pointers. Channer finished with eight points, while his teammates stepped up to relieve pressure from the duo.
Peterson, a junior forward, made sure his presence was known in this playoff game. He opened the game with the confident three pointer, then closed the first half with a mid-court steal and thunderous dunk to give Blake a 25-21 lead and send the home fans into delirium. He shot 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the second half to keep any potential Tiger rallies at bay. He finished with 10 points. Smith commented after the game, “He (Peterson) came out right away and hit the shot, ..but he also played great defense. He did things we needed him to do.”
Blake outscored Jesuit 30-11 in the second half. Peterson and his teammates held Jesuit to two points in the third quarter as they pulled away. He talked about stepping up in a big playoff win in front of a charged crowd that he himself would fire up with arm flapping histrionics. “Coach always preaches defense to everybody. I wanted to come out here and play the best defense I possibly could. We feed off their (the crowd) momentum.”
Blake will travel to face Ft. Myers High on Saturday, February 26. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Curtis Fountain added 12 points for Blake, including eight in the final quarter.