TAMPA– The Blake High basketball team needed every bit of poise and determination they displayed Thursday night in their 4A regional quarterfinal victory over visiting Lakewood Ranch. Andre Smith calmly drained all three free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining after being fouled behind the arc attempting to untie a 57-all score. Blake (26-2) rallied after trailing for most of the game. They were down by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter before ending the game with an 11-0 run.
The Mustangs (20-9) had two more chances. First, a three-point shot attempt was blocked out of bounds by Blake’s Quintin Brewer. Then the final inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left found Mustang guard Tim Greenamoyer, who hoisted an off-balance three-pointer that bounded of the side of the backboard.
Blake relied heavily on the duo of senior point guard Andre Smith and junior point forward Brandon Channer. Smith was especially deadly from behind the three point line, knocking down six triples and being fouled attempting a game-winning try. He led all scorers with 27 points. Channer added 15, nailing two three-point field goals of his own in the second half. Blake scored nine three-pointers in the game, including six in the second half.
Trailing by eight, Smith hit his final long range bomb of the night to draw his team to 52-57 down with 1:40 left to play. Yellow Jackets coach Winston Davis said after the game that, “good teams come around when they need to and good ballplayers make good shots at the right time.”
Smith then hit a long jumper from just inside the arc. A free throw by Channer, a put-back by Brewer, and then a great steal by Xavier Alston set the stage for Smith’s final three-point attempt and his subsequent foul line heroics.
Smith played all 32 minutes and never slowed. He and Channer handled the ball constantly. In fact, both teams seemed extremely fit, playing at a torrid pace using either a full press or at least a trap, while only using seven players each. Regarding Smith’s fitness, Blake coach Davis said, “Off season he works the whole year [to] …keep himself in good shape.”
Blake will host a familiar opponent next Tuesday night: Jesuit. The Tigers defeated Braden River Thursday night to set up a rematch of the 4A-9 district championship, which the Yellow Jackets captured with a 51-39 victory on February 12.
Lakewood Ranch was led by senior guard Jordan Baker’s 20 points, including four treys. Big junior center Brian Cobb added 18 for the Mustangs.
Blake trailed 30-22 at halftime and by as many as 10 in the third quarter. Smith said afterward they never showed signs of cracking. “We don’t panic very much. We have confidence in our teammates to make the right plays.”