TAMPA — Blake almost let another district game against Jesuit slip away Friday night.
When the teams met last month, a last-second missed layup gave the Tigers a two-point win. And in Friday's rematch, Jesuit almost squeaked another out, this time with first place on the line.
Blake blew a 15-point third-quarter lead, but when the Yellow Jackets needed points late, junior center Michael McFarland delivered, scoring Blake's final eight points, including an emphatic dunk with 7.8 seconds remaining to give the Yellow Jackets a 55-53 win.
The win, Blake's eighth straight, put the Yellow Jackets (14-4, 9-2) atop the competitive Class 5A-10.
"Blake's never really had a chance to shine," said McFarland, a 6-foot-7 center who led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points. "We've been at the bottom, but now we have a chance to show the world that we're here, ready to play ball."
Blake held Jesuit (13-4, 8-3) to 17 points at the half, stifling the Tigers with tenacious defense, but Jesuit shooters came to life late in the third, going on a 17-3 run capped by Matt Mills' 3-pointer to tie the game at 43.
"In the second half I wanted our guys to be a little tougher and start attacking them," Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. "We were too much on our heels the first half, but our guys have responded all year."
The teams exchanged baskets, with Austin Schonbrun's 3-pointer with 47 seconds left tying the game again at 49.
But tied at 51 with Jesuit with possession with 22 seconds left, a scramble, and Blake emerged with possession and McFarland converted a fastbreak dunk.
"I was just hoping I didn't miss that dunk," McFarland said. "I was thinking that the whole time."
Jesuit had one last chance, but Schonbrun's 3-point attempt from the right corner was off and Erick McGriff's rebound was blocked.
"We're on top now," Blake coach Winston Davis said. "I've told our guys. It's hard to get on top. It's even harder to stay there. It's been three or four years since we've been like this."
Julian Jackson scored 11 for Blake and Montrey Pride added eight. McGriff led the Tigers with 13 while Mike Matesich scored 11.