Senior guard Jannifer Rodriguez and coach Sam Baumgarten shared a tearful embrace amid a chaotic celebration at half-court after Miami High beat Ferguson 50-48 Friday night in the Region 4-9A championship.
The win sends the Stingarees back to state. Rodriguez watched her season end in back-to-back years to the Falcons in the regional title game. Before that, the Stingarees beat the Falcons in back-to-back seasons, winning state titles each time.
The Stingarees will play Deerfield Beach on March 2 in the 9A state semifinals.
Rodriguez paced the Stingarees (26-4) with 14 points Friday. Sheslanie Laureano also scored 14 points for the Falcons (25-5).
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“These kids have been working their butts off,” Baumgarten said. “Every day, all I’ve been hearing is, that team’s going to beat us. That team’s going to beat us. And we’re not good enough. We proved them wrong.”
For three quarters, it looked like the Falcons were the better team. But sloppy Falcons’ ball handling and the experienced Stingarees guards finally paid off in the fourth quarter. The Stingarees trailed 16-15 after the first quarter and 27-22 at halftime. Ferguson held a 40-39 edge entering the final frame.
But Darria Whitley drilled a three-pointer to start the fourth quarter for a 42-40 lead, which the Stingarees never surrendered.
“We had to work for everything we got in this game,” said Colleen Bucknor, who had 13 points in the win. “We had to keep grinding and grinding. As you can see, we came through in the fourth quarter.”
“It means a lot to my teammates and everyone. I did not want the season to end tonight and we are going to states.”
Miami 50, Ferguson 48: M: J. Rodriguez 14, Bucknor 13, Rachel 7, Scott 7, Whitley 5, Ward 4; F: Laureano 14, Gonzalez, 10, Charlton 9, Pineda 7, Daniels 6, Hunter 2. Three-pointers: M. Scott, Whitley, J. Rodriguez, Bucknor, F. Laureano 2, Gonzalez 2, Chalston 2, Pineda. Half: Ferguson 27-22.
▪ Dillard 52, Norland 39: The Dillard girls’ basketball team has been accustomed to playing in a regional final for what seems like an eternity.
Winning those games has played a big part why the Panthers have won nine state championships under coach Marcia Pinder.
In the Class 7A regional final against Miami Norland, it was all Dillard as it rolled to a lopsided victory.
Dillard (23-4) advances to the state semifinals where it will play the Fort Myers/Clearwater winner on March 2. The Panthers, who are 9-3 in regional finals since 2000, will be making their 12th appearance at the state tournament. They have also won a state title in each of their last five trips to the tournament.
“This team has put 20 more years on my coaching life,” Pinder said. “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever had.”
Dillard never trailed and led by as many 13 points in the first half, before the Vikings closed to within six at half.
“We tried to be very patient because they were extremely big,” Pinder said. “We couldn’t taker it to them like we’re used to. They gave us all we could handle.”
Senior guard Ayana Emmanuel led the Panthers with a team-high 20 points, 12 coming in the third quarter when the Panthers rebuilt a double-digit lead.
“The game plan was to share the ball and trust each other’ Emmanuel said. “This feels great.”
Briah Christa, Genovea Johnson and Raven White each added to 10 points for Dillard. Christai had six in the final quarter, including a huge three-pointer that put the Panthers up 50-38 with less than two minutes to play.
Once Norland (19-10) fell behind by 10 points in the second half, they never got closer than eight of the lead.
Jayiah Harris-Scott and Geraldine Seile each scored 11 points for the Vikings.