Since 2003, seven of the nine Junior Orange Bowl champions have been out-of-town basketball teams. Only Miami Springs in 2007 — with current NFL standout T.Y. Hilton at guard — and Hialeah Gardens last year broke the visitors’ dominance.
The first two Miami-Dade teams to play quarterfinal games in the tournament’s national bracket Thursday failed to advance. But Hialeah Gardens (11-3), the defending state champion in Class 8A, became the first Miami-Dade school to beat an out-of-state team Thursday, defeating Ironton (Ohio) 74-56 to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
Adrian Gonzalez, a 6-4 senior forward, led Hialeah Gardens with 24 points. Teammate Alvaro Simoza, a 6-6 senior center, had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Gladiators advanced to play Bullis (Potomac, Md.), which beat Coral Gables 84-61.
Thursday’s earlier results for the national bracket, which is for the higher-ranked teams in the tournament:
• Bishop McNamara 70, Coral Reef 65: The Cudas (11-1) lost their first game of the season despite game-highs from 6-4 guard and Boston University recruit Cedric Hankerson, who had 36 points and 12 rebounds.
Bishop McNamara (6-3), which won the Junior OB title in 2003 with current NBA point guard Ty Lawson at the controls, is back in Miami for the first time since that team.
Hankerson and Bishop McNamara guard Stephan Jiggetts, who is a Siena recruit, engaged in a fierce duel. Jiggetts had 26 points, three assists and zero turnovers in an efficient performance that included shooting 4 of 10 on three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Hankerson had one assist and six turnovers as he tried to will his team to victory. He made 9 of 23 shots, including 5 of 15 on three-pointers, often shooting from way behind the arc.
Coral Reef trailed by nine points in the third period but rallied to tie the score at 53-53 late in the fourth. Jiggetts, though, stepped up to hit two consecutive three-pointers to give his team a six-point lead.
• West Charlotte (N.C.) 66, Palmetto 41: The Panthers (10-3) raced to an 8-0 start, but the Lions (8-0) responded immediately with a 15-1 run and never trailed again.
The Panthers were led by Kory Schulz’s 16 points, six rebounds and two steals but could not keep up with the Lions, who are ranked No. 1 in North Carolina and No.18 nationally, according to MaxPreps.
Lions center Kennedy Meeks, a 6-9, 290-pound senior who has signed with the University of North Carolina, had game-highs in rebounds (7), blocks (4) and steals (4). He made 4 of 6 from the field, 4 of 4 from the line and added two assists against three turnovers.
Friday’s semifinals are set for the Junior Orange Bowl’s local bracket. Cooper City will play Mater Academy at 3:30 p.m., and Miami Central will challenge Booker T. Washington at 5 p.m.
Mater advanced by beating Killian 49-39, getting 11 free throws and 15 total points from Ricardo Lorenzo.
In the other quarterfinals, Cooper City beat Doral 48-44; Central defeated Coral Park 66-57; and Booker T. routed Reagan 57-23.
• Miami High 39, Sagemont 35: The Miami High girls’ basketball team started slow but made the plays necessary at the end to prevail against Sagemont in the finale of Thursday’s semifinal action at the Miami High Holiday Classic.