Christian Shaneyfelt drove to the hoop, sidestepping his defender and laying the ball toward the rim.
But before the ball could trickle through to give Lakewood Ranch High a lead midway through the fourth quarter, Pompano Beach Blanche Ely’s Aderes Staton-McCray caught it on the way up and swatted it down.
Lakewood Ranch fans booed, while the Mustangs’ bench shouted for a goaltending call.
But Staton-McCray’s impersonation of LeBron James from Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, where James came from the opposite side of the court to block Andre Iguodala to propel the Cavaliers to the title, was ruled a clean block, albeit not high off the glass as James did.
Ely never looked back from that moment, turning a 10-point first-half deficit into a 57-52 victory to claim its second straight Class 8A boys basketball state championship at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center on Saturday.
Lakewood Ranch, which was aiming to become the first Manatee County public school to win a boys basketball state title since Southeast High in 1995, settled for the silver medal in its first state title game appearance, bettering the 2017 team’s trip to the final four by one game.
“This group of guys is amazing,” Lakewood Ranch coach Jeremy Schiller said. “I don’t know if people besides our fans and our coaching staff and our players believed we were going to win. We had Ely on the ropes. I told our guys what would be intimidating for them is that we wouldn’t be intimidated by them. Their success, they have a great coach and they play really hard, and usually they can get inside their opponent’s heads. I don’t think that happened one bit. I just think they made a few more plays than we did.”
Keon Buckley had a team-high 17 points for the Mustangs, while Shaneyfelt added 12 and Joshua Young had 10.
Young finished his high school career, while Buckley and Shaneyfelt are juniors.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Young said. “We’re the first team at Lakewood Ranch to go past the final four, but still wished we had gone just a little bit further.”
Lakewood Ranch stormed out to a 10-point lead in the second quarter thanks to a zone defense that caused some havoc for Ely. Then the Tigers (24-6) found pockets to creep closer before grabbing a one-point lead over the Mustangs (23-7) heading into the final quarter.
Both teams stayed even until Shaneyfelt’s potential go-ahead basket turned into a block, before Ely scored buckets in the paint and nailed free throws to secure the eighth state title in program history — the most in Broward County.
“That was the play of the game,” Blanche Ely coach Melvin Randall said of Staton-McCray’s block. “... It kept us going and was a momentum change.”
Added Staton-McCray: “I had to come from the opposite side and I was like, ‘We have to get this stop.’ It was a crucial moment and it felt good.”
Randall had nothing but praise for Lakewood Ranch following the game. The Mustangs were in control throughout the first half and hung with Ely all the way.
“It could have went any way,” Randall said. “It was a possession game, who made the fewer mistakes. We kind of stepped up at the right time and caused a few turnovers that turned into baskets ... but it could have went either way. Well-coached ballclub.”
Ely’s victory was its second straight overcoming a double-digit deficit. The Tigers trailed Windermere by 15 points in Friday’s semifinal.