With the game ball held firmly at his hip, Blake High junior guard Brandon Channer stood in awe. He watched as fans and teammates celebrated the Yellow Jackets' 74-65 win over defending state champion Fort Myers in the Class 4A-Region 3 boys basketball final Saturday, sending Blake to its first state final four since desegregation.
As blood and sweat trickled down his face, he embraced teammate and senior guard Andre Smith with open arms, with whom he combined for 53 points on the historic night. Neither could hold back tears.
Blake will face Leesburg in the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday at The Lakeland Center.
"This is all we've talked about," said Channer, who finished with 25 points and received a cut over his left eye during the game when he collided with a Fort Myers player. "These are tears of joy right now."
"We came into the game knowing they were going to be a good team, we knew they were used to this, so we had to be poised and just stay in control, like they were going to do," said Smith, who scored a game-high 28 points, including five 3-pointers.
Blake (28-2) took a 52-40 lead in the third quarter and seemed to be on its way to an easy victory when Fort Myers (21-11) went on a 15-2 run in the final 2 minutes of the quarter to take a 55-54 lead entering the fourth.
Blake regained the lead on a 3-pointer by senior Clarence Peterson with 5:47 left and never looked back. Senior center Quintin Brewer added 10 points and eight blocks.