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Young knows tomorrow is never guaranteed. “We look at every game like this could be our last, and we have to play that way,” star 6-11 junior center Jahlil Okafor said.
The Dolphins never let King get settled.
Behind the play of Okafor and 6-5 junior wing L.J. Peak, the Dolphins ripped off a 23-0 first-half run and cruised past the host Jaguars 83-63 in a Class 4A regional semifinal Wednesday night.
Young advances to the regional championship Friday.
“We wanted to make a statement,” Peak said. “We’re not thinking about upsets or anything like that, just going out and showing what we could do.”
The final score was misleading. Young’s starters played just over half the game and King did most of its damage against the Dolphins’ second unit. Young led by as many as 33 points before resting its starters.
“We just wanted to give some other players a chance to do something, because this is the playoffs and you need players,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said.
Peak started the onslaught, scoring eight of his 15 points in the first quarter. His swooping drive and hammer dunk pushed the Dolphins (25-3) to a 19-4 lead just six minutes into the game. Young smothered King’s shooters at the start, allowing just one Jaguar basket in the opening 12 minutes of the game.
Okafor scored a game-high 18 points and added nine rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists. Twice in the first quarter, he blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound and started the fast break. He assisted from the top of the key to a driving Paul White for another Young dunk and a 23-4 lead after the first quarter.
The quarter closing 10-0 burst swelled to 23-0 as Young scored the first 13 points of the second quarter. Young’s movement and sharing of the ball continued to impress. “That’s the way we’ve played the whole year, and I think we’re getting better with each game,” Okafor said.
King senior guard Zachary Branch (14 points) scored the only Jaguar basket in the first 12 minutes of the game as Young ran out to a commanding 36-4 lead. King ended the first half with a 14-5 burst as Young settled for a 41-18 lead at the break.
With its starters back on the floor, Young opened the third quarter with an 10-0 burst in the opening 1:31 as Peak again ignited the team with a three-point play. Okafor scored nine points in the third quarter as Young posted a 65-34 lead.
White added 15 points and seven rebounds and reserve Erwin Henry contributed 11 points. Senior guard Miles Reynolds scored nine points as eight different Young players scored.
Senior guard Tarik Brown scored 14 points and junior Delon Statam added eight points for the Jaguars (16-12).