No matter how sporadic the Miami Rain offense has looked during its run to a franchise best 12-0 record and No. 2 rank in the Womens’ Blue Chip Basketball League, a game-changing defense has saved the day.
After trailing in both Regional Tournament games on Saturday, the Rain dialed up its defense to pull out comeback victories and clinch the Suncoast South Division title in Tampa.
Due in large part to its new defensive mindset, which coach Lester Patterson credits to the arrival of first-year assistant Chris Garcia, the Rain has a shot to win the WBCBL National Tournament which opens at Shula’s Athletic Club in Miami Lakes on Saturday.
“Without Chris Garcia I don’t think we would have the success we have had so far,’’ Patterson said. “He has added a lot of things that I didn’t see. He is a defensive minded guy. He brings so much more to the table and our team has bought into his defensive schemes.”
Patterson said under Garcia, the Rain has tried to become a carbon copy of the NBA champion Miami Heat, in its ability to convert turnovers into quick baskets.
Led by high energy 6-1 forward Arlande Cherizol, who should contend for WBCBL defensive player of the year honors, the Rain’s defense erased a 10-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Orlando Extreme 90-77 in the Suncoast South Division championship game.
Kiesha Alexander had a team-high 21 points, Christina Rozier added 13 points while Sudanne Stewart and Cherizol added 10 points each.
Against the Jacksonville Cougars in the Suncoast South semifinals, the Rain dug a 14-2 hole before storming back for a 71-56 victory. Charmaine Clark had 20 points, Alexander added 12 points and 6-3 center Melissa Dalembert had a team-high 13 rebounds.
“Orlando was really beating us on the inside but our constant ball pressure and transition game picked up and it wore them out,’’ Patterson said. “I think with the way we have been playing defense and having the national tournament in our backyard puts us in position to be a favorite. But we’re not taking anything for granted.”