Riding high at 18-0 for the first time in school history, the Coconut Creek girls’ basketball team has become the talk of the town.
Now if the Cougars can bottle that magic and win an elusive BCAA Big 8 championship, they will finally join Dillard, South Broward and Nova as county blue bloods.
Despite being the lone Class 7A team left standing with an undefeated record, Coconut Creek, which faces South Broward (13-4) in the Big 8 quarterfinals at South Plantation High School at 8 p.m. Thursday, believes it has something to prove.
“We don’t get that respect yet, so the Big 8 title is very important to us,” junior forward Alicia Mardis said. “We want to put that trophy in our school gym. That will prove that all our blood, sweat and tears haven’t gone to waste.”
Nova (14-5), led by Kianni Lurry and sharpshooter Bernadette Devaney, opens defense of its Big 8 title against Miramar at 3:30 with Flanagan facing Class 5A No. 1 Dillard and reigning Broward 8A-5A Player of the year Kayla Wright at 5.
After having their status as the county’s top program challenged with a 62-55 upset loss to American Heritage, the Panthers (17-2) appear to have righted the ship with a thrilling 50-43 overtime victory over Class 4A No. 1 Coral Springs Charter at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Super Showcase.
Cardinal Gibbons faces Douglas at 6:30.
But of all those state contenders chasing a Big 8 title, none will be under the microscope more than Coconut Creek.
For all the regular-season success Coconut Creek has enjoyed under coach Max Ruback (115-34 in six years), the Cougars have bowed out in the first round of the Big 8 Tournament the past five seasons.
Senior guard Andrekia Thompson (12.5 ppg), the first Cougars player to reach 1,000 career points and a McDonald’s All-American Florida Final 16 nominee, said the season-long challenge of keeping an undefeated record intact should help Coconut Creek end that dubious run of early Big 8 exits.
“We’re better mentally and physically prepared,” Thompson said. “All season teams have been shooting darts at us. They want to be the first to beat us. We had some up-and-down games, but we push forward and work hard for 32 minutes.”
Thompson, Mardis, a 5-10 forward averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game, and Shamari Josey (14.2 ppg) spearhead a defensive-minded Cougars team that goes 12 deep.
Freshman guard S’Kaydrah Woods has also provided a spark.
With Dillard paying a visit Tuesday and South Broward, another perennial state power, looming Thursday, Ruback will have a better handle on his team’s state hopes by week’s end.
“Playing the best is the only way to go,” Ruback said. “ If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. We don’t fear anybody. This team has something special about it. Something you can’t put into words.”
• Late Saturday — Southernmost MLK Basketball Tournament in Key West — Champagnat 87, Pace 77 - CH: Holanda 8, Chapotin 1, Collie 2, Leadon 23, Domingues 18, Mackey 7, LaBranche 25, Nairm 3. MP: Thomas 4, Norvius 3, Justinien 27, Weite 6, Logan 6, Wilson 3, S. Jean, 3, Ogugua 2, Duarte 17, A. Jean 2. Rebounds: LaBranche 7, Holanda 6, Domingues 5. Assists: Holanda 6, Nairm 5, Leadon 5. CH: 14-4.
• Late Friday — Southernmost MLK Basketball Tournament in Key West. — Champagnat Catholic 60, Key West 43 - CH: Holanda 6, Chapotin 4, Collie 2, Leadon 15, Domingues 13, Mackey 4, LaBranche 14, Nairm 2. KW: Acosta 7, Scott 14, Thompson 10, German 2, Valdes 8. Rebounds: Domingues 10, LaBranche 9. Assists: Leadon 7, Chapotin 5. CH 13-4.
• Late Friday — St. Brendan 71, Ronald Reagan 49 - SB (8-13): Ruiz 4, Dominguez 16, Claro 1, Harduval 8, G. Garcia 4, R. Diaz 3, Fenelon 6, Suarez 2, Molivar 21, Sanchez 2, Calderine 3. RR: Ortega 3, Allrich 8, Dacunha 25, Prada 2, Humphries 5, Sarmiento 3. Halftime: SB 29-20. Rebounds: Suarez 7: Assists: Dominguez 8. Steals: Ruiz 4
District 11-5A quarterfinals at Deerfield Beach: Coral Glades vs. Monarch, 5; Douglas vs. Coral Springs, 7
District 12-5A semifinals at Western: Western vs. South Plantation, 5; St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Northeast, 7
District 13-5A semifinals at Cypress Bay: Everglades vs. Cypress Bay, 5; Cooper City vs. West Broward, 7
District 15-4A quarterfinals at South Broward: Coconut Creek vs. Hollywood Hills, 5; Boyd Anderson vs. Fort Lauderdale, 7
District 16-3A quarterfinals at North Miami Stadium: Pines Charter vs. Hallandale, 5; Pompano Beach vs. Mourning, 7
District 13-2A quarterfinals at American Heritage-Delray: Calvary Christian vs. Boca St. Andrews, noon; North Broward Prep vs. Boca Pope John Paul II, 2; Pine Crest vs. Coral Springs Charter, 4
District 14-2A quarterfinals at Cardinal Gibbons: Somerset vs. University School, 5; Chaminade vs. Monsignor Pace, 7
District 13-1A semifinals at Highlands Christian: Boca Christian-FAU winner vs. Village Academy-Highlands Christian winner, 5; Donna Klein-Zion Lutheran winner vs. Yeshiva, 7
District 14-1A quarterfinals at Brian Piccolo Park: Posnack vs. Sheridan Hills Christian, 4; Coral Springs Christian vs. Westminster Academy, 4
District 16-3A semifinals at North Miami Stadium: Pines Charter-Hallandale winner vs. Archbishop McCarthy, 5; Pompano Beach-Mourning winner vs. American Heritage, 7.
District 14-2A semifinals at Cardinal Gibbons: Pace-Chaminade winner vs. Cardinal Gibbons, 5; University-Somerset winner vs. Mater Lakes, 7.
District 14-1A semifinals at Brian Piccolo Park: Posnack-Sheridan Hills Christian winner vs. South Florida HEAT, 4; Coral Springs Christian-Westminster Academy winner vs. Sagemont, 4
Region 3-5A quarterfinal: Taravella at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7
Region 3-5A quarterfinal: Western at Douglas, 7
Region 4-5A quarterfinal: Doral Reagan at Cypress Bay, 7
Region 4-5A quarterfinal at Milander: West Broward vs. Miami Beach, 3
Region 4-4A quarterfinal at Traz: McArthur at Mater Academy, 7
Region 4-4A quarterfinal: Miami Springs at South Broward, 7
Region 4-3A quarterfinal: Archbishop McCarthy at Jensen Beach, 7
Region 4-3A quarterfinal: Riviera Beach Suncoast at American Heritage, 7
Region 4-2A quarterfinal: North Broward Prep at Chaminade, 4
Region 4-2A quarterfinal: Cardinal Gibbons at American Heritage-Delray, TBA
Region 4-1A quarterfinal at Weston Regional Park: Yeshiva at South Florida HEAT, TBA
Region 4-1A quarterfinal: Westminster Academy at Boca Christian, 7
Big 8 quarterfinals at South Plantation: Nova vs. Miramar, 3:30; Dillard vs. Flanagan, 5; Cardinal Gibbons vs. Douglas, 6:30; Coconut Creek vs. South Broward, 8
District 11-5A semifinals at Deerfield Beach: Deerfield Beach vs. Douglas-Coral Springs winner, 5; Taravella vs. Coral Glades-Monarch winner, 7
District 12-5A final at Western: 6.
District 13-5A final at Cypress Bay: 7.
District 15-4A semifinals at South Broward:
District 13-2A semifinals at American Heritage-Delray:
District 13-1A final at Highlands Christian: 7.