Lourdes basketball stars Tiffany Suarez and Kiara Palmer will finish a journey Wednesday morning that began when they were 4 years old.
The longtime teammates in high school and travel basketball will each sign with a Division I college, securing the next step in their careers.
Tiffany and I have played basketball together on one team or another since we were kids, and thats pretty rare, Palmer said. Im so happy it happened for us its pretty amazing.
Suarez, a 6-foot senior guard, will sign with the University of Virginia and Palmer, a 6-foot forward, will sign with Rhode Island.
But Lourdes talented duo wont celebrate too long.
Suarez and Palmer have to get back to work on the last goal they hope to accomplish as teammates.
They hope to lead Lourdes, which returns a squad that is at the top among favorites in Miami-Dade County to return to Lakeland this season in Class 8A, back to state for the first time since 2010, when the Bobcats were state runners-up in Suarez and Palmers freshman seasons.
Getting back has literally been our only goal since that year, said Palmer, who averaged 11.2 points and 16.2 rebounds last season.
Losses to Dr. Krop in the regional finals each of the past two seasons have denied Lourdes a trip back.
This season, although Krop is still rated among the countys top teams, the transfers of key players has opened the door for Lourdes and a few others to make a run at Dades automatic berth in Region 4-8A.
Reigning Miami Herald Class 8A-6A Athlete of the Year Ieshia Small moved to Tallahassee in the offseason and will play for defending Class 2A champion FAMU after leading Krop to a state runner-up finish last season. Guards Brandi Harrington and Maikala McCloud transferred from Krop to Monsignor Pace as well. The Lightning still has a solid squad led by sister forwards NKiru and Ogechi Anyagaligbo.
Miami High figures to be the strongest contender to battle Lourdes and Krop for the top spot.
The Stingarees return a talented backcourt led by junior Amanda Mendoza, Terri Kimbrough and Tynesha Johnson. But their biggest asset is 6-4 sophomore forward Beatrice Mompremier, who figures to improve upon a breakout freshman season.
By the end of the season, I think [Mompremier] is going to be ranked among the top sophomores in the country, Miami High coach Sam Baumgarten said. Shes going to give us a huge advantage inside against a lot of teams.
Miami High, Krop and Lourdes, however, arent the only contenders in Class 8A.
Ferguson lost its top player, junior guard Tabitha Gonzalez, to an ACL injury recently, but still has a squad strong enough to battle Lourdes and South Miami for a playoff spot.
And American figures to push Krop for its district title.
Norland is the favorite in Class 6A with star guard Brittany Dinkins and forward Nia Roberts returning. Harrington and McClouds presence at Pace will give the Spartans a great chance to challenge Gulliver for Dades top spot in Class 4A.
Miami Country Day returns forward Onika Swaby and with junior guard Danielle Minot could have a breakthrough year in Class 3A.