Nevermind the 18-10 record going in. After playing a challenging regular-season schedule that included nationally ranked teams from outside Florida, the Miami Country Day girls’ basketball team continued its clear dominance over the 3A and 4A classifications on Wednesday afternoon.
In a first state semifinal matching teams from Miami-Dade County,
Maria Alvarez, Koi Love and Aasiya Berry led Country Day to a lopsided 63-30 victory over SLAM Academy that prompted a running clock in the second half.
The win pushes the Spartans, who have won four consecutive state titles (three in 3A, one in 4A) into the Class 4A state championship game on Thursday at 2 p.m. against Tampa Carrollwood Day. And with that will be an opportunity to become only the second team in state history to win five in a row, matching Jacksonville Ribault’s feat from 1999 to 2003.
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Not only did the win mark Country Day’s 22nd straight postseason victory, but the Spartans, in their nine games played in Lakeland over the last five years, have outscored their opponents by an eye-popping average of 32 points per game.
About the only thing that did not go right for the Spartans on Wednesday was a bus driver who got lost.
“We got some bad directions and were late for our shootaround which bothered me a little bit because it knocked the girls a little out of their rhythm in terms of getting settled in,” said Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby. “I knew we would be OK in the game, but I just can’t stand sloppy play of any kind at any point in the game.”
Country Day led 51-11 at halftime before Swaby emptied his bench as the Titans (23-7), making their second straight final four appearance, actually outscored MCD 19-12.
“Tomorrow will be a great opportunity in terms of legacy,” Swaby said when asked about the chance to win a fifth straight title on Thursday. “But the one thing I’ll need to see is will these girls actually be able to come out in a state championship moment and actually perform, because we have a lot of new faces this season. I want them all to make that big step to the next level and try to use moments like these to see who they are as players.”
SLAM, which stands for Sports Leadership and Management, was led by Isabella and Stephanie Perez, who had seven points each.
“We obviously knew what we were up against today,” said SLAM head coach Michelle Smith. “But I was proud of the girls because no matter how lopsided the score, they kept playing hard to the end.”
MCD: (19-10): Alvarez 18, Berry 17, Love 12, Shaw 6, Gordon 3, Fishman 3, McCormack 2, Theodule 1, Taylor 1. SLAM (23-7): I. Perez 7, S. Perez 7, Sanford 6, Jac. Garcia 5, Jai. Garcia 3, Francos 2. Rebounds: Love 9. Assists: Shaw 4. Steals: Love 6. Half: MCD 51-11.