Just over two years ago, Emmanuel Dowuona had never played organized basketball, walking a mile once a week after church so he could put up shots on a net-less rim with a busted backboard.
At that same time, James Ametepe was a pretty good soccer player but awful in his attempts at basketball, which were limited to shooting a few baskets outside the home of a friend.
Both Dowuona and Ametepe are from Accra, the capital of the African nation of Ghana, although they didn’t know each other at the time.
Fast forward to this Thursday, when Dowuona and Ametepe will lead Westwood Christian (19-8) in a Class 2A regional semifinal at Boca Raton’s Grandview Prep (23-3). Westwood has reached the regional round for the fifth consecutive year but has yet to win a state title.
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Dowuona, a 7-0, 220-pound junior, is averaging 18 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks, earning scholarship offers from numerous schools, including Miami, Southern Cal, Connecticut, Rutgers and Purdue. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has made three trips to Miami to recruit him.
“I think he’s been the most dominant big man in South Florida this season,” Westwood coach Jose Amat said. “He’s raw offensively, but he’s a beast on defense.”
Ametepe, a 6-5, 200-pound junior, is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds. A lefty wing who can guard all five positions on the high school level, Ametepe is a straight-A student and a mid-major prospect.
“James is a thunderous dunker who can make three-pointers,” Amat said. “I think he will pick up offers this summer in AAU ball. God willing, he can go to the Ivy League. He just picks up a book, and the next day he has an A. He barely needs to study.”
Amat said a friend of his, who is from Ghana, told Dowuona and Ametepe about Westwood.
Fortunately, Amat said, both students already spoke English and were eager to make the move to improve their futures. Even so, it hasn’t been easy for Dowuona and Ametepe, who each lives with a separate host family in Miami.
“I really miss my parents,” said Dowuona, who, like Ametepe, hasn’t been home since he left Accra in the summer of 2014. “Being away is hard. But education comes first. I have to take care of my responsibilities before I go back.
“My parents paid a lot of money to get me here. I don’t want to fail them.”
So far, he hasn’t. It’s been quite the opposite, in fact, as Dowuona and Ametepe have fit in perfectly, according to Amat. And both students dream of becoming engineers.
Ametepe said he enjoys the diversity of Miami, and he said the city has been everything he imagined.
As for Thursday’s game, Westwood, which reached the state semifinals in 2013, figures to have a tough challenge. Grandview won state titles in 2013 and 2016 and has made it to the regional semifinals 14 years in a row. During that span, Grandview finished second at state four times.
Earlier this season, on Dec. 23, Grandview defeated Westwood 69-54. In fact, Westwood has never beaten Grandview, losing all five matchups so far.
But that doesn’t shake Ametepe’s confidence.
“I’m not losing that game,” said Ametepe, who laughed when the subject of Grandview was mentioned. “I’m making sure that day I’m winning. [Grandview] should be ready for what is coming.”
▪ Palmer Trinity 55, Palm Glades Prep 50: PT(19-8): Friedland 13, Cuellar 13. PGP: Francois 16, Lilavois 14, Castillo 14. HT: PT 21-19. Three-pointers: Castillo 4, Lilavois 4, Friedland 3. Rebounds: Waldman 6. Steals: 5. Assists: Friedland 4.
▪ Cypress Bay 12, Flanagan 7: Joey Courcelle 4 goals 1 assist; Will Masaro 2 goals 2 assists; Gavin Ward 2 goals 1 assist; Dalton House 2 goals 1 assist; Diego Soberon 10 ground balls.
▪ Cooper City 13, West Broward 3: Oliva Lewis 5 goals 2 assists 6 drawl controls, Florence Andrieu 3 goals 3 assists 4 drawl controls, Amanda Rivas 3 goals, Grace Barr 5 ground balls 1 assist, Crystal Williams 2 goals.
▪ Hialeah 11, Coral Park 9: Winning pitcher J.D. Barrio (1-0) 6 k's, 1 run. Isabella Mendez 4-4 with 2 doubles, 1 RBI and 2 runs; Katherine Correa 4-5 with 2 RBI, 1 run 2 stolen bases; Kimbo Lopez 3-5 with a triple, 2 runs, 1 RBI. Hialeah 1-0.
▪ Lourdes 14, RGN 2: Stephanie Iglesias 2-3, two doubles, three runs; Nicole Gonzalez 3-3, 3 runs; 3 RBI; Jackie Lorente 2-3, double, 2 RBI. WP: Nora Zubillaga 1-0. Lourdes 1-0.
▪ Mater 14, Lasalle 2: WP: Alyssa Confessore 6 strike outs no walks. Alyssa Confessore 3-3, RBI, run; Madison Londono 2-3, RBI, 4 runs; Nicole Rodriguez 2-3, double, run; Snezshana Stojkovic 2-3, double, RBI, run.
▪ Calvary Christian 15 Trinity Christian 2: WP: C. Crump 1-0. Crump 3-3, 4 runs, 1 RBI; A. Chang, 3-3,1 run, 2 RBI. Calvary 1-0, Trinity Christian 0-1.
▪ St. Brendan 19, Carrollton 4: WP: Bianca Hernandez 5 strikeouts. Vicky Lara 3-5 hits, HR, double, 2 runs; Susana Perez 4-5 hits, HR, 3 runs; Eliza Artiles 3-4 hits, HR, 3 runs; Andrea Blasco 3-5 hits, double, 3 runs; Autumn Lopez 4-5 hits, 3 runs.
▪ Westminster Christian 16, Everglades Prep 0: Adri Otero 2-2, double, 3 RBI; Ashley Castano 2-2, 2 RBI; Ally Mena doube, 4 RBI; Bella Artiles 3B, RBI, 2 IP, 5 K.
▪ Goleman 10, Krop 5: Nat Costero 2-4 2 RBI, triple, double; Emily Bacallao 2-4, 4 RBI, triple, double; Nakiya Johnson 2-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI. WP: Denise Hernandez 7 K's (1-0); LP: Karina Delas Rosa 4K's (0-1). Goleman 1-0, Krop 0-1.
▪ Gulliver Boys 5, Krop 2: Nicolas Ramirez won 8-0; Christian Otero won 8-2; Nikita Kolesnikov won 8-1; Ryan Hellinger won 8-1; Andre Libnic and Nicolas Ramirez won 9-8; Gulliver 1-0.
▪ Miami Country Day 6, International Studies 1: Milan Bass won 6-1, 6-3; Evan Meiselman won 6-0, 6-1; 3. Alexander Slezynger 6-0, 6-1.
▪ Cardinal Gibbons 5, Ft. Lauderdale 2: Collel (CG) d. Christian. Ash 8-0; Soong (CG) d. Candler Ash 8-6; Harbour (CG) d.Teke 8-4; Baumeister(CG) d. Danado 8-3 ; Rosado (FL) d. Armeli; Doubles Collel/Harbour (CG) d. Ash/Ash 8-4; Kirschbaum/Salamun (FL) d. Rosado/Danado 8-6.
▪ Doral 5, Ferguson 2: Collel (CG) d. Christian. Ash 8-0; Soong (CG) d. Candler Ash 8-6; Harbour (CG) d.Teke 8-4; Baumeister(CG) d. Danado 8-3 ; Rosado (FL) d. Armeli; Doubles Collel/Harbour (CG) d. Ash/Ash 8-4; Kirschbaum/Salamun (FL) d. Rosado/Danado 8-6.
▪ Doral Academy 5 Ferguson 2: JustinOssa (FER) def. A. Rodriguez (DOR) 8-6; S.Williamson (DOR) def. Jorge Melian (FER) 8-3; S.Belmar (DOR) def. Nico Ramirez (FER) 8-4. Doubles: N. Ramirez/J. Ossa (FER) def. I. Palacio/M.Belmar (DOR) 8-5.
▪ MAST 8, HML 0: Eugenio Alvarez 8-0, Juan Lopez 8-0, Fabricio Perez 8-0, Derrick Roseman 8-00; Alejandro Matar Garcia 8-1.
▪ Krop 6, Gulliver 1: 1. Ysabel Gonzalez Rico d. Camila Ordonez 8-1; 2. Lindy Lyons lost tos Karly Friedland 2-8; 3. Chiara von Gerlach lost to Juliana Martinez 4-8; 4. Sasha Kolesnikova lost to Jennifer Miller 3-8; Tina Barrios lost to Manami Cachena 0-8. Doubles: 1. Ysabel Gonzalez Rico, Lindy Lyons vs Camila Ordonez, Karly Friedland 8-4; 2. Chiara von Gerlach, Sasha Kolesnikova vs. Juliana Martinez, Julie Shillington 5-8.
▪ Cardinal Gibbons 4, Ft. Lauderdale 3: Gomez-Diaz (FL) d. Wich 8-2; Stevens (FL) d. Copely 8-2 ; Metani (CG) d. Gregoutchadez 8-0; Ferrante (CG) d. Dee 8-1; G. Harmon (CG) d. Maldonado 8-1; Doubles Gomez-Diaz (FL) d. Wich/Metani 8-6; Copley/G. Harmon(CG) d. Dee/Gregoutchadez 8-0.
▪ Ferguson 6 Doral Academy 1: Gomez-Diaz (FL) d. Wich 8-2; Stevens (FL) d. Copely 8-2 ; Metani (CG) d. Gregoutchadez 8-0; Ferrante (CG) d. Dee 8-1; G. Harmon (CG) d. Maldonado 8-1; Doubles Gomez-Diaz (FL) d. Wich/Metani 8-6; Copley/G. Harmon(CG) d. Dee/Gregoutchadez 8-0.
▪ MAST 8, HML 0: Emilia Uscocovich 8-0, Anabella Camacaro 8-0, Mencia Sanchez 8-0 Carmen Isusi 8-0; Lucia Ors 8-0.
TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE GIRLS’ BASKETBALL
▪ Region 3-9A semifinal: Deerfield Beach at Douglas, 7
▪ Region 4-9A semifinal: Flanagan at Miami High, 7
▪ Region 4-9A semifinal: Lourdes at Ferguson, 7
▪ Region 4-8A semifinal: Palm Beach Lakes at Fort Lauderdale, 7
▪ Region 4-8A semifinal: Nova at South Broward, 7
▪ Region 4-7A semifinal: Central at Doral, 7
▪ Region 4-7A semifinal: Northeast at Dillard, 7
▪ Region 4-6A semifinal: Riviera Beach Suncoast at Archbishop McCarthy, 7
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal: Gulliver at Keys Gate, 7
▪ Region 4-5A semifinal: Boca St. Andrew’s at Cardinal Gibbons, 7
▪ Region 4-4A final: SLAM at Palmer Trinity, 7
▪ Region 4-4A final: Benjamin at Miami Country Day, 7
▪ Region 4-3A final: Highlands Christian at Somerset Prep, 7
▪ Region 4-2A final: Sheridan Hills Christian at Boca Grandview Prep, 7
Last week’s best Miami-Dade high school performances
TEAM OF THE WEEK
The Doral Academy boys’ soccer team clinched its first trip to the state championship round with a 6-1 win over Venice. Juan Castano and Hector Henriquez each scored twice in the victory.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Shaq Harris and Jonathan Vilchez, American, boys’ basketball: Harris and Vilchez combined for 54 points, 40 rebounds and 11 assists in wins over Miami High and North Miami that secured the District 14-9A championship, American’s first in 13 years.
Cyrus Largie, Mater Lakes, boys’ basketball: Largie finished with 39 points and 21 rebounds to lead the Bears to a 73-66 win over Booker T. Washington and their first district championship.
Yari Martinez, Doral, girls’ basketball: Martinez scored 16 points, including three huge three-pointers, to lead the Firebirds to a 52-43 win over Norland in the Region 4-7A quarterfinal.
Iker Sanchez Gasser, La Salle, boys’ soccer: Sanchez Gasser stopped a penalty kick and recorded a shutout in a shootout victory over North Broward Prep that lifted the Royal Lions to their first state semifinal in any sport since 1974.
Paula Gutierrez, Palmer Trinity, girls’ soccer: Gutierrez scored the lone goal in a 4-1 Class 1A state semifinal loss to Lakeland Christian.
Federico Tamborrel, Belen, boys’ water polo: Tamborrel scored six goals in a 15-7 win over Lake Mary.
Paola Dominguez-Castro, Hialeah, girls’ water polo: Dominguez-Castro scored a combined 15 goals in wins over Miami Country Day and MAST.
Madison Stricker, Coral Reef, girls’ lacrosse: Stricker had three goals to lead the Barracudas to an 8-7 overtime win over Palmetto.
Andre C. Fernandez
Last week’s best Broward high school performances
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Danny Collazo swept both matches at 170 pounds to help the West Broward wrestling team beat South Plantation and Western.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Tess Buccarelli, Fort Lauderdale, girls’ water polo: Buccarelli had five goals and six steals to lead the Flying L’s over Cardinal Gibbons 18-7.
Isaiah Quinteras, Cypress Bay, boys’ basketball: Quinteras had a team-high 16 points to lead the Lightning (19-7) over Piper 39-36 for the District 12-9A title.
Sean Lowry and Kenny Lucien, Coral Springs, boys’ basketball: Lowry and Lucien each scored 14 points to lead the Colts over Deerfield Beach 61-60 for the District 11-9A title.
Olivia Harrington, Calvary Christian, girls’ lacrosse: Harrington had two goals and two assists to lead the Eagles over Western 15-4.
Nate Griffin, Nova, boys’ basketball: Griffin had 14 points to lead the Titans over McArthur 73-54 for the District 15-8A title.
Thomas Verbinskis, Sagemont, boys’ basketball: Verbinskis had 16 points and seven rebounds to lead the Lions over Miami Country Day 67-34 for the District 6-4A title.
Parker Strickman and Andrew Yurchak, St. Thomas Aquinas, boys’ water polo: Strickman and Yurchak each scored five goals to lead the Raiders over Miami Columbus at the Boca Raton Invitational.
Brittney Howard, Flanagan, girls’ basketball: Howard scored 19 points to lead Flanagan over Miami Hialeah 61-42 in the Class 9A quarterfinals.
Erin Allen, Highlands Christian, girls’ basketball: Allen had a game-high 30 points to lead the Knights over Posnack 67-40 in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Max Hermann, University, boys’ lacrosse: Hermann had six goals and two assists to lead the Sharks over Piper 20-5.