There were no state championships to be won in the Miami High gym last week. But if you were standing in the locker of the Miami Springs Golden Hawks basketball team following their 54-44 victory over Coral Gables in a District 14-8A semifinal game, you might not have been able to tell the difference.
That’s because the win was a huge one for this program and its fourth-year head coach, Delmar Wilson
A team just three years removed from a four-win season had just qualified for its district championship game but more importantly guaranteed itself a trip to the regional playoffs for the first time in six years. (Both district championship game participants advance to regionals, one as a champion and one as a runner-up.)
And two nights later, Springs darn near pulled off an even bigger shocker. Taking on district top seed and favorite Miami High in the Stings gym, the Hawks never blinked. They led by as many as eight points in the first half, and still led by two going into the final quarter before dropping a 62-56 decision.
“It’s been a long time coming and a long tough road, so it makes this moment that much more special,” Wilson said following the Gables victory in a noisy Springs locker room. “This was a truly great team victory in which everyone contributed and that’s the way it should always be — team victories. You don’t need some 30-point-a-game stud. You just need a bunch of hustling kids who buy in to what you’re selling and play hard for 32 minutes, and that’s what we got tonight.”
After losing to Gables twice during the regular season by 15 and 12 points, Springs entered the district playoffs as the No. 3 seed and Gables the No. 2. But none of that mattered as the Hawks came out red hot, jumping out to a quick six-point lead before really throttling things up in the second quarter to pull away and open up a 34-19 halftime lead before it ballooned to as much as 18 in the third quarter.
Gables eventually got itself together and made a run at the Hawks, coming as close as eight with 2:44 left. But, thanks to some great clutch free-throw shooting in the final few minutes, the Hawks never allowed them to get any closer than eight.
“We knew they would eventually make a run at us, so that was the time we had to keep our cool, show our poise and not crack under the pressure, and we did that,” said Wilson. “The key to winning this game tonight was total unselfishness. We always made that extra pass and finished plays.”
While, as Wilson would say, “everyone” contributed, the Hawks got extra large performances out of Horace Matthews with nine rebounds and 10 points, and Victor Troya, who led the way with 17 points while pulling down nine boards.
Perhaps the two most ecstatic Hawks were Elmer Oliveras and Brandon Fisher. The two seniors who had been through the really difficult times with the program hugged and celebrated at midcourt like a couple of kids who had seen Santa drop down their chimney on Christmas Eve.
“This is the ultimate feeling and was such a long time in coming,” said Oliveras. “We knew if we just went out there and played together and had each other’s backs, that we would come out on top. Even though they (Gables) had beaten us twice during the season, we were close in both of those games in the fourth quarter, so we knew coming in that we were capable of pulling it off.”
Now will come the biggest challenge. With the good news being they’re in the regional playoffs, the bad news is who they drew. Springs, being the District 14 runner-up will travel to Hialeah Gardens this Thursday night, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. to take on a team that is not only the District 13 winner, but the defending Class 8A state champion from a year ago.