Boys’ basketball | Region 4-8A semifinal: Miami Gardens 55, Miami High 53

Gladiators keep persevering

Hialeah Gardens’ boys’ basketball players didn’t change their jersey numbers Tuesday night.

But before the game, the Gladiators all wore T-shirts with the No. 33, making sure everyone knew who they were playing for.

A day after learning injured senior center Alvaro Simoza would not be able to play again this season, Hialeah Gardens found a way to persevere again, edging host Miami High 55-53 in a Region 4-8A semifinal.

The Gladiators (23-5), the defending Class 8A state champions, will attempt to clinch another trip to the state final four Saturday when they play at South Miami at 7 p.m. in the regional final.

“We lost a big part of our team, so it was only right that we show our respect to him,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of people doubt us because we don’t have the firepower of last year, but we’re in the regional finals again, and we’re not stopping here.”

Miami High (15-9), which was eliminated by Gardens for the second season in a row, nearly came back to win thanks to guard Allen Baez, who scored nine points in the final 36.7 seconds. After falling behind by seven points with less than a minute left, Baez twice scored and drew a foul. He also made three of four free throws.

Hialeah Gardens’ Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Huertas and Henry Leonardo combined to make four of six free throws down the stretch to keep the Gladiators in front.

Leonardo finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Gonzalez had 17 points and eight rebounds. Huertas finished with 11 points, four steals and four assists.

Baez, who finished with 23 points, had one last chance, firing a half-court shot at the buzzer that fell short.

“[Baez] is one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached,” Miami High coach Marcus Carreno said. “He made a few turnovers early, but he did everything in his power to try to help us win this game. We don’t win five games this year without him. He’s the engine of the team.”

Simoza, an integral part of the Gladiators’ run to their first state championship last season, injured his knee Feb. 8 in the team’s district championship win against Carol City and missed the team’s regional quarterfinal win against Miami Springs this past Thursday. On Monday, Gardens got the official word following an MRI that Simoza had a torn ACL.

Hialeah Gardens coach Marcos Molina had the T-shirts made for all of his players with Simoza’s number on the front and the word “family” on the back.

“Since Alvaro went down, we talked about preparing for each game individually and not worrying about anything else,” Molina said.

Last season, Hialeah Gardens persevered in spite of losing then-senior guard Gian Clavell to a season-ending injury just before the regional playoffs. Several players, including backup center Abraham Kurnick, who has started each of the past two games at center, played key roles Tuesday.

“I’ve learned a lot from Alvaro, and I hope I can grow to be as good a player as he is,” Kurnick said. “I just want to help fill that spot we need on this team and keep working hard.”

HG (23-5): Gonzalez 17, Leonardo 18, Huertas 12, Sanchez 4, Kurnick 4. MHS (15-9): Concepcion 3, James 6, Coqmard 3, Baez 23, Gualtieri 6, Mompremier 10. Half: HG 28-21. Three-pointers: Concepcion, James 2, Gualtieri 2, Huertas 2. Rebounds: Leonardo 9. Assists: Huertas 4. Steals: Huertas 4.

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category