The big picture payoff for Broward’s elite boys’ basketball programs beating up on each other all season is a battle tested readiness, which yields more state championship hardware than any other county in Florida. In fact, it’s not even close.
Broward has become the measuring stick for other counties with a state leading 17 state titles since the 2013-14 season, led by Blanche Ely’s six state titles, and the 954 is poised to create even more separation from the field with 5 teams — Dillard (23-7), Pines Charter, Stranahan (22-9), Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (22-8), and Miramar (22-6) advancing to the state Final Four in Lakeland this week.
Pines Charter coach Dave Roca, who along with Chaminade’s Andre Torres have led their teams to their first state semifinal berths, credits Broward’s super showing at states to elite coaching and a preference for a tough schedule over inflated win-loss records.
“There is hardly a night off in Broward,” Roca said. “Regardless of talent, the games are extremely competitive because of the great coaching and the willingness to play other top teams. The tough schedule makes all of us better.”
Blanche Ely, under Hall of Fame coach Melvin Randall, has set the gold standard for Broward at the state tournament, winning six of Randall’s state record 9 state titles in the past 10 years. Ely was recognized was recognized for their excellence last week by being named to the MaxPreps Top 25 (No. 4) public high school boys basketball programs in the nation.
Roca said for his team, winning the BCAA Big 8 Tournament for the first time against some of the elite programs in Broward was just the grueling, three game stretch needed to launch the Jags’ first run to the state semifinals.
“The Big 8 put everything in perspective for us,” Roca said. “Understanding we could play at a high level and with consistency for three consecutive days. You come to the Big 8 and it takes a toll. You have to be ready mentally and physically. It worked to our advantage and gave our kids some confidence. It’s a different level of confidence when you win the Big 8.”
The Jaguars, who face Naples in the 5A semifinals on Thursday, own a school-best 25-2 record and have at their luxury, one of the state’s best closers in senior guard Dallas Graziani, who went off for a game-high 31 points against Okeechobee in the Region 4-5A final. Rocha said team chemistry has been key with key returnees Geoffrey Sprouse and Amarachi Ujagbor welcoming new starters Graziani, Osei Price and Javen Smith into the fold.
In preparing for his first state seminal and the nuances of the Lakeland Center, Rocha said he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from rival coaches, including Miami Norland’s Lawton Williams, who has knocked these same Jaguars out of the Regional round four times and went on to win the state title.
Dillard, looking for redemption after losing in the 7A state championship game last year, will face Lake City Columbia in the 6A semifinals on Thursday. There is a strong sentiment around the Panthers program to bring Hall of Fame coach Darryl Burrows his 8th state title and Dillard has just the talented post player to do that in 6-9 senior Jalen Haynes, who finished with a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds in an upset road victory over Mater Academy in the Region 4-6A final.
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Chaminade faces perhaps the steepest climb for any Broward team against Boca St. Andrew’s, the prohibitive favorite in 3A and its star forward tandem of Joshua Minott and Yussif Basa-ama in Wednesday’s semifinal.
The lone state final four representative from Miami-Dade is Schoolhouse Prep (20-8) which will face Jacksonville Impact Christian in the Class 2A semifinals on Wednesday. Schoolhouse Prep is led by senior guard Anthony Lopez, Jr (20.8 ppg).
Stranahan is seeking back-to-back state titles under coach Terrence Williams and will face Jacksonville Paxon in the 4A state semifinals on Thursday. The Dragons (21-9) won the first basketball state title in history (6A) last season and is considered a surprise by many to make it back to Lakeland. Stranahan has answered any point guard questions they had at the start of the season with a point guard by committee approach led by Chayse Culpepper.
Williams said that all five Broward teams bound for state share one thing in common – a willingness to play anybody, anywhere.
“The strength of schedule for all five teams is key,” Williams said. “Everybody plays a tough schedule. There is nothing in our minds other than the state finals. For me, we had to fight for every game except for one this season. The competition does nothing but get you ready for state.”
Miramar, following a heart-stopping 37-35 victory over Western in the regional finals, will make its second Final Four appearance in three seasons, when it faces Orlando Oak Ridge, a Lakeland regular, in the 7A semifinals on Friday. Senior guard Brent Davis leads a balanced scoring attack (16 ppg) for the Patriots.
GIRLS’ WATER POLO
▪ Ransom Everglades 14, Orlando Boone 3: Aliyah Cohen 3 goals, 2 assists, 1 field block; Sarah Mesa 4 goals, 2 assists, 2 steals.
▪ Ransom Everglades 13, Orlando Olympia 9: Ana Sannia 2 goals, 2 assists, 1 steal; Dylan Stone 1 goal, 1 assist
▪ Ransom Everglades 11, Winter Park 5
▪ Ransom Everglades 11, Lake Nona 3: RE: 10-0
BOYS’ WATER P0LO
▪ Ransom Everglades 12, West Orange 9: Nico Valls 5 goals, 1 assist, 3 steals.
▪ Ransom Everglades 12, Oviedo 8: Nico Valls 7 goals, 3 blocks, 4 steals; Perry Samimy 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 steals
▪ Ransom Everglades 13, Orlando Dr. Phillips 12 (OT): RE: 8-3
▪ Ransom Everglades 21, Palmer Trinity 2
▪ Ransom Everglades 11, Everglades Prep 0
▪ Colonial Christian 16, Miami Country Day 0: WP: Morgan Wells 3Ks, (4-0), 1B, SB; Juliette DelValle 2 hits, 4 RBI, 2 SB; Cayla Housh 1B, 2RBI; Jenna Friman 1B, 2R, SB.
▪ Lourdes 22, Miami Beach 1: WP: Maria Amat; Adriana Perez, 3R, Maria Amat 3R, 3RBI; Gabi Ullivari 2B, 4 RBI; Brooke Filliben HR, 5 RBI, 3R; Mia Bermudez 3R.
▪ Plantation American Heritage 6, Calvary Christian 1: Emily Stouch, Grace Odom-Montbrun, Livia Kaufman, Juliette Zamora and Trinity Hoyos all won singles. Hoyos/Shayna Dash won in doubles.
▪ Plantation American Heritage def. Calvary Christian 4-3: Luca Benaibbouche, Daniel Naylor and Mateo Coles won in singles for AH. Benaibbouche/Alex Marban won in doubles. James Germinal and Juan Muscoso won in singles for CC, Germinal/Muscoso won in doubles.