Of the six Broward teams to win state titles during the Winter season, the Blanche Ely boys’ basketball team and Cypress Bay boys’ soccer teams took the historic route.
The Lightning, under first-year coach Colin Ligner, found itself in the first state soccer final decided by penalty kicks and emerged with a 2-1 victory (4-1 in penalty kicks) over West Orange for the Class 5A state title.
Ligner said some advance scouting gave goalkeeper Juan Calle the edge to stop three penalty shots.
“The day before when we played the semifinals we saw West Orange go against Orlando Freedom and had our assistant coach film their penalty kicks,” Ligner said. “We had that prepared just in case we reached penalty kicks. We gave our goalie the instructions, he had it on paper behind the goal. He had a knowledge of their tendencies and saved three penalty shots.”
Despite having a target on its back, Ely became the first Broward boys’ public-school team to finish the season undefeated.
Six-time state champion coach Melvin Randall pushed all the right buttons to help the Tigers (28-0) win their third Class 7A state title in four seasons and ultimately earn Randall ALL-USA Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
The St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ soccer team (24-1-0) built on its dynasty with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Oviedo. Aquinas showed it could play Oviedo’s slow-down game before Isabella Dorosy (28 goals) scored two goals in the final five minutes to help Carlos Giron win his 14th state title and seventh national title.
“We had a very mature team this year,” Giron said. “We had the core of our players back. They understood at this point how to win. It makes things a little easier. We didn’t really go with the attitude we are the best and teams were just going to give us the game. We just came out and played the hardest that we could.”
The American Heritage girls’ team found itself in a fight with Land O’ Lakes for the Class 3A state title before Deja Cason converted the game winner in the 83rd minute as the Patriots won 2-1 in overtime. The Patriots (21-1-2) captured their ninth state title, which ranks second to Aquinas in FHSAA history.
Wrestling state power Cardinal Gibbons was rebuffed in its attempt for a repeat Class 1A state title. The Chiefs advanced four wrestlers into the finals but came up empty. Somerset’s Raekwon Reggler emerged as the lone state champion from Broward, winning his second consecutive 182-pound title.
It was business as usual for Hall of Fame coach Marcia Pinder and the girls’ basketball dynasty she has built at Dillard. Behind Jacaira Allen, the Florida Dairy Farmers 5A Miss Basketball, the Panthers (30-1) defeated Jacksonville Paxon 51-35 for Dillard’s fifth state championship in six years and ninth overall under Pinder.
On the boys’ side, highly touted 6-7 transfer Maverick Rowan (26.9 ppg) helped Cardinal Gibbons (30-1) finally claim the boys’ basketball state title that had eluded them. Rowan teamed with standout point guard Jose Morales to form a near unstoppable one-two punch. The Chiefs’ lone loss came to USA Today Super 25 No. 4 Ely.
“Maverick made my life a lot easier this year,” Morales said. “Last year I felt like I had to make every play. This year Maverick allowed me to do what I do best, which is be a pass-first point guard. Winning a state title is why I came to Gibbons. It took me four years but it is special for me to do it.”
McArthur, under Warren Gale, made its state semifinal debut but lost 76-69 to Palm Beach Wellington in the 8A state semifinals, and Jacksonville Providence ended Sagemont’s bid for a repeat Class 3A state title with a 66-57 victory in the championship game.