Behind 31 points from senior point guard Tiffany Suarez and a decisive scoring run that inflated as large as 22-0 and 31-2, the Lourdes’ girls’ basketball team ousted South Miami 63-44 in the Region 4-8A semifinal Tuesday night at Belen.
The win sets up a regional final matchup Saturday against Miami High that both Lourdes coach Chris McKeon and Miami High coach Sam Baumgarten have been anticipating since the two teams first met this season in the final of a holiday tournament.
Suarez scored on the fastbreak, from mid-range, and also weaved her way to the basket through multiple defenders to get layups in halfcourt sets.
She scored 17 of her 31 in the big Lourdes run, which lasted from early in the second quarter through nearly the entire third and came in response to a first quarter that South Miami dominated.
“I knew I couldn’t let this happen, and my team knew it,” said Suarez, a Virginia recruit who this season led all Miami-Dade County big schools with 18.2 points per game. “So we all got together, and they made sure to get me the ball at the right times, set me up to be able to score.”
McKeon knew he’d have to rely on his pressure defense against a South Miami squad that had a considerable advantage in the halfcourt game with its size. The Bobcats (27-1) turned the game into a layup line once they started forcing turnovers.
“We didn’t want to play a halfcourt game with them. [Center Kiara Palmer is] excellent, but she’s one person; they have three,” McKeon said. “I think with a press — it’s like a fighter and the body punches – eventually it wears you down.”
Palmer finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and four assists passing out of the post. Melanie Jordan scored 14 points.
South Miami ends its season with a 24-5 record. The Cobras had the misfortune of being in the same district as the Bobcats as four of their five losses came against them. They’ll return a majority of their rotation players, especially their strong frontcourt, next season.
Lourdes won both its games against Miami High in the regular season.
LOU (27-1): Suarez 31, Palmer 9, Jordan 14, Farinas 2, Nunez 2, Minervino 2, Campanella 2, Buitrago 1. SM (24-5): Graham 16, Ka. Brown 4, Puertas 7, Evans 4, Kh. Brown 9, Cummings 2, King 2. Halftime: LOU 28-19. Three-pointers: Graham 2. Rebounds: Palmer 11. Assists: Palmer 4. Steals: Jordan 5. Blocks: Ka. Brown 3. Technical: Kh. Brown. Foul-out: Jordan.
• Region 4-4A semifinal — Gulliver Prep 47, Ransom Everglades 39: Chloe Nixon led the Gulliver with 15 points in a win over Ransom Everglades.
Ransom fought back after being down 25-11 at the end of the first the half.
After returning in the second Ransom switched their coverage to a man-on-man but the defensive change wasn’t enough.
Ransom brought the score closer but not before Gulliver could adapt.
“We played them before so we knew what they were capable of,” Gulliver coach John Zambolla said.
Ransom defeated Gulliver 50-36 in a January matchup.
Gulliver will face Coral Springs Charter in the regional final.
COREY W. CAMPBELL
GUL (19-9): Nixon 15, M.Pyatt 8, Wirshing 4, Westbrook 14, J. Pyatt 6. RAN (16-5-1): Crotty 12, Lopez 19, Smitty 8 , Deutch 4. Halftime: GUL 25-11.
• R egion 4-3A semifinal — Miami Country Day 53, Palmer Trinity 34: Despite a slow start, the Spartans came away with a win on the road over Palmer Trinity.