Four consecutive state championships and two Dick’s Nationals titles in two attempts – the greatest era in Miami-Dade County girls’ basketball history may have ended on Saturday.
But if this run of greatness is indeed over for Miami Country Day due to the imminent graduation of two top seniors … what a way to go.
The Spartans, led by a record-breaking shooting performance by sophomore Maria Alvarez, routed Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga, Tennessee), 81-55, in the DICK’s Nationals in New York City.
MCD (31-1) is ranked sixth in the nation by USA Today. A final poll will be released on Tuesday, and it is at least possible the Spartans could move up in the rankings.
Alvarez, a native of Colombia who has been on the varsity since seventh grade, has started on all four MCD state-title teams.
But as good as she’s been in her career, Alvarez was on another level on Saturday, setting a Dick’s Nationals record with eight three-pointers and scoring 26 points. She made 8 of 11 on 3-pointers.
Alvarez hit at least one three-pointer from multiple spots, including top of the key, short corner and left and right elbows. And her totals could have been higher had the game not been a rout. As it was, she barely shot the ball in the fourth quarter.
“We just came out with the juice we had (Friday),” Alvarez said of MCD’s semifinal win over Seton Catholic (Chandler, Arizona). “We have great chemistry on this team. My teammates know where I am all the time.”
Alvarez was far from the only MCD star.
Senior star guards Kelsey Marshall and Channise Lewis – who will be sorely missed by the Spartans next season – were both outstanding.
Marshall, a Miami Hurricanes signee, scored 23 points. She took a hard backward fall in the second quarter, hitting her head on the floor as she tried to draw a charge. But she missed just two minutes of game time.
“She can’t get hurt like that – she has too much hair (protecting her head),” Swaby joked.
Lewis, the team’s point guard the past four years, had seven points and a game-high 10 assists. In the two games in this tournament, Lewis totaled 28 points and 17 assists, a stellar effort for a player who signed with Illinois but has reopened her recruitment after a coaching change at her would-be university.
In addition, MCD junior forward Aasiya Berry added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Spartans opened Saturday’s game with a 22-4 lead after starting Friday with a 20-4 advantage. By the time the third quarter ended on Saturday, MCD had an insurmountable 72-32 lead.
In less than 24 hours, the Spartans beat two of the top 15 teams in the nation. Seton Catholic (30-4) and Hamilton (29-2) finished a combined 59-5, with two of those losses against MCD.
The Spartans joined Orlando’s Dr. Phillips and Maryland’s Riverdale Baptist as the only schools to win this tournament twice since its inception in 2009.
Now, though, the Spartans have to adjust to life without Lewis and Marshall.
“I feel blessed because they have given us so much already,” Swaby said. “But it’s time for them to move on to a bigger challenge.”