MIDDLE VILLAGE, N.Y. — It was close for a lot longer than it should have been.
Facing off against a team that didn’t capture a state title, and entered as the Public School Athletic League champ, national No. 3 squad Dillard of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., got all it could handle and more from New York’s South Shore, finishing each of the first three periods with a single possession lead.
Then the fourth quarter came along, and Dillard star Destiny Frazier took control.
After struggling through a tough-shooting third period, Frazier scored from the perimeter and on drives into the lane, racking up a game-high 23 points in Dillard’s 65-44 rout of South Shore.
“(Dillard assistant) Coach Adams put it in our heads that the game was too close,” Frazier said. “I guess we just stuck it out as a team.”
RELATED: Miami Country Day survives scare
A significant part of the swing in momentum and fortunes was Dillard’s shift in defense, with the Panthers utilizing both full and half-court aggressive traps in place of their earlier shifting man-to-man and zones.
The Vikings, who put up a game defense until the eventual fourth-quarter capitulation, were led by Maryland-bound post Brianna Fraser, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Vikings’ second-highest scorer, Valena Hickerson, had just six points.
“We just ran out of gas down the stretch in the fourth quarter,” South Shore coach Anwar Gladden said. “It was a three-point game going into the fourth and we just couldn’t sustain it. High school basketball is about rebounding and taking care of the basketball, and you won’t win many games when you turn the ball over 25 times.”
For Dillard, the win marked a return to action after 42 days on the sidelines.
Now, with the rust officially dispelled with, the Panthers will prepare for a second face-off against Miami Country Day School (MCDS), which edged Gonzaga Prep in the day’s first semifinal. Dillard topped MCDS by four, 66-62, at the MVP Classic in Ft. Lauderdale on January 17. Now, the two schools will face off with a national title (at least of the tournament variety), and plenty of bragging rights across neighboring counties, on the line.
“It’s going to be awesome to face Miami Country Day in the championship,” Dillard coach Marcia Pinder said.
Added Frazier: “We know the players, their personnel and their go-to players. We can fix our mistakes from earlier in the season.”