Some have doubted whether the Hialeah Gardens boys’ basketball team is good enough to make another run at a state championship.
Entering the District 13-8A playoffs as the No. 3 seed following two regular-season setbacks to American put the Gladiators in a must-win game against the Patriots on Wednesday night at the Carol City gym.
Guard Luis Huertas helped Hialeah Gardens get a little closer.
With a couple of key starters in foul trouble, Huertas delivered 17 points, three assists and three steals to help the Gladiators beat American 65-52 in a district semifinal and advance to the regional playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Hialeah Gardens (20-5) avenged two one-point defeats to the Patriots (18-6) and will play Carol City in the district final Friday at 7 p.m. at the Chiefs gym. Carol City beat North Miami in the other semifinal.
“It had to be our best effort against [American] because they are a tough team that won’t quit,” Hialeah Gardens coach Marcos Molina said.
Adrian Gonzalez finished with a team-high 22 points and had seven rebounds. Henry Leonardo finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Alvaro Simoza had nine points.
But Gonzalez and Simoza both sat with three fouls each early in the third quarter. That’s when Huertas came in and delivered key points for Gardens, helping it build a double-digit lead. The Gladiators made 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch to hold off American.
“[Huertas] stepped up and played like a true senior leader,” Molina said. “He’s heard a lot of people say that we don’t have the same guards like last year when we had Ray Rodriguez and we can’t win state without those guys. Tonight, he showed how good this team can be when he contributes the way he did.”
HG (20-5): Sanchez 6, Huertas 17, Gonzalez 22, Simoza 10, Leonardo 9. AM (18-6): Foster 15, Spicer 18, Barba 3, Andrews 8, Escobar 4, Liz 2. Halftime: HG 19-12. Three-pointers: Foster 3, Spicer, Andrews 2, Huertas 2. Rebounds: Leonardo 10. Assists: Huertas 3. Steals: Huertas 3.
District 13-8A semifinal – Carol City 55, North Miami 41: The Chiefs (21-5) advanced to the regional playoffs for the first time since 2007, led by Marquill Smith’s 14 points, four steals and four rebounds.
Rashard Thompkins had nine points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. Devonte McKennie had 10 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Antonio Watson came off the bench to score six points and collect three rebounds.
NM: Fleurentin 4, St. Fleur 9, Augustin 5, Cine 7, Brown 11, Lafortune 4. CC (21-5): White 3, Smith 15, McKennie 10, Williams 4, Allen 4, Jackson 6, Wilson 4, Thompkins 9. Halftime: CC 29-14. Three-pointers: St. Fleur, Augustin, Smith. Rebounds: McKennie 8. Steals: McKennie, Smith 4.
• South Dade had three softball standouts sign Wednesday with colleges. Elizabeth Diaz and Samantha Cardillo each signed with Miami-Dade College. Nicole Rosado signed with South Florida State College.
• Sunset boys’ soccer standout Jorge Torres-Martin signed with Stony Brook.
• Gulliver girls’ soccer team had three players sign Wednesday — Nicole Harris (Troy), Kai-Lin Hernandez (High Point) and Sofia Trujillo (San Diego State).
• Belen golfer Oscar Cabanas signed with Fordham University. Belen also had soccer standout Eduardo Valle sign with Stony Brook.