It was high drama at its very best on Saturday afternoon in a packed gym at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale as a Region 4-4A semifinal volleyball matchup between Cardinal Gibbons and the host team turned into a five-set classic.
In the end, it was the Gibbons players storming the court in a wild celebration following a remarkable comeback as the Chiefs dropped the first two sets but fought back for the win, 19-25, 17-25, 26-24, 27-25, 16-14.
Gibbons (22-7), which has not returned to a state final four since 2011, a virtual lifetime for a decorated program such as that, will have a shot to do it when the Chiefs host Ransom Everglades on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a regional final.
“When we were down 0-2, I just told them to fight for their lives,” Gibbons coach Kathryn Reeber said. “Our girls showed an unbelievable amount of heart and character to come all the way back on a great team like that in their gym. I can’t be more proud of these girls. We’re excited about a chance to keep this thing going on Tuesday.”
Pine Crest (22-9), which lost to Gainesville P.K. Yonge in the state final a year ago, had things going its way the first two sets. Even after Gibbons pulled out the third set, the Panthers led 20-16 in the fourth and was in position to close out the match.
But the Chiefs scored six of the next seven points to pull even before eventually winning another nail-biter 27-25. Neither team ever led by more than three in the fifth set, the match clincher coming when Gibbons senior Sarah Martin went high and blocked a Pine Crest kill attempt.
“The first two sets were a little rough, but we just wanted this so bad, just our determination is what ultimately drove us to win those next three sets,” said Martin, who finished with 20 kills, 23 assists, 15 digs and five blocks. “Now we have a new challenge on Tuesday, and we can’t wait.”
Daniella Molinari (19 kills, five assists, nine digs, six blocks) and Kassie Akouri (30 assists, 16 digs) also had a big day for the Chiefs.
▪ Region 4-3A: Belen Jesuit won its 13th consecutive regional title and 19th overall, led by sophomore Joshua Collins, who ran 15 minutes 56.60 seconds to finish second individually. Merritt Island’s Steven Cross won in 15:40.10.
On the girls’ side, Dillard’s Brittany Gill continued her stellar senior season with a winning time of 18:39.50 at Stuart South Fork.
Northwestern finished second to Merritt Island led by Shiree Hinds’ fourth-place time of 19:58. Mater Academy’s duo of Rahyah Andressohn (19:29.50) and Jinah Mickens (19:44.80) finished second and third, respectively.
▪ Region 3-4A: Coral Glades’ boys and Douglas’ girls were the only Broward teams to advance to state behind top-five finishes at Stuart South Fork.
Region 4-3A – Boys’ team scores: 1. Belen Jesuit 39; 2. Merritt Island 79; 3. Viera 80; Individuals (Winner and Dade/Broward top 15): 1. Cross, Steven (MI) 15:40.10; 2. Collins, Joshua (BEL) 15:56.60; 4. Lopez, Jaime (BEL) 16:17.20; 7. Rosado, Giovanni (Doral) 16:58.40; 8. Noltion, Michael (Dillard) 16:59.50; 9. Garcia, Christophe (BEL) 17:00.20; 11. Roca, Nicolas (BEL) 17:03.90; 13. Souza, Henrique (BEL) 17:04.20; 15. Roa, Sebastian (BEL) 17:07.50.
Girls’ team scores (Winner and Dade/Broward qualifiers): 1. Merritt Island 52; 2. Northwestern 111; 4. Mater Academy 149; Individuals (Winner and Dade/Broward top 15): 1. Gill, Brittany (DIL) 18:39.50; 2. Andressohn, Rahyah (MA) 19:29.50; 3. Mickens, Jinah (MA) 19:44.80; 4. Hinds, Shiree (NW) 19:58.00; 9. Moussa, Megan (Terra) 20:19.90; 10. Fernandez, Maria (Doral) 20:24.80; 13. Spann, Daishon (Boyd Anderson) 20:41.00.
Region 3-4A - Boys’ team scores (Winner and Broward qualifier): 1. John I. Leonard 64; 5. Coral Glades 143; Individuals (Winner and Broward top 15): 1. Ilio Sanchez (JIL) 16:32.90; 4. Michel Normil (Taravella) 17:13.70; 8. Brandon Flagler (Monarch) 17:24.20; 15. Jared Rubin (Douglas) 17:29.20.
Girls’ team scores (Winner and Broward qualifier): 1. Vero Beach 88; 4. Douglas 128; Individuals (Winner and Broward top 15): 1. Caitlin Lopez (Wellington) 20:04.90; 3. Nicole McConnell (Monarch) 20:30.40; 9. Halie Murphy (Doug) 20:41.90; 11. Emilia Thom (Doug) 20:46.90.
▪ Southwest 28, Braddock 7: Three big plays by James Barnes helped Southwest (7-2, 4-1 District 15-8A) rally in the fourth quarter to defeat Braddock on Saturday afternoon at Tropical Park and clinch a playoff berth. In a Class 8A playoff, Southwest will face the winner of Monday’s three-team tiebreaker between Killian, South Dade and Southridge.
Barnes’ first big play came on a 79-yard touchdown pass from John “JJ” Jaramillo as he broke a tackle at midfield and took it the distance. Late in the third quarter with the score tied 7-7, Barnes intercepted a pass in the end zone. In the fourth quarter, Jaramillo found Barnes for a 53-yard touchdown.
“We needed big plays, and I had to step up to make big plays,” Barnes said. “We came together as a team in the second half and got the victory.”
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Manny Pineda scored on a 32-yard pass from Jaramillo. In the final seconds of the game, Te’Corey Tutson added a 33-yard touchdown run. Jaramillo passed for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Daniel Monterrey led the Eagles’ defense with two interceptions. Angel Alvarez led the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3), passing for 172 yards and a touchdown.
BD - Sanabria 6 pass from Alvarez (Mederos kick)
SW - Barnes 79 pass from Jaramillo (Garcia kick)
SW - Pineda 32 pass from Jaramillo (Garcia kick)
SW - Barnes 53 pass from Jaramillo (Garcia kick)
SW - Tutson 33 run (Garcia kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- SW: Pineda 1-5, Jaramillo 1-7, McCrea 6-42, Barnes 8-55, Tutson 8-71. BD: Alvarez 2-11, Sanabria 6-21, Chavez 10-40, Victor 7-51.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- SW: Jaramillo 7-18-1, 204. BD: Alvarez 14-35-3, 172.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- SW: McWilliams 1-5, McCrea 1-7, Pineda 3-60, Barnes 2-132. BD: Grant 1-20, Sanabria 5-34, Victor 3-41, Castellanos 7-77.
FRIDAY: University School 18, Village Academy 16: Henry Colombi was 15 of 24 passing for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Ali caught five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Jerry Jackson made three receptions for 33 yards and a score, and Al Blades covered 53 yards on a touchdown reception. Colombi also ran five times for 55 yards, and Blades had three carries for 31 yards.
Dist. 16-8A tiebreaker at Harris Field:
Killian, Southridge vs. South Dade, 4
Dist. 8-2A tiebreaker
at Delray Beach Hilltopper Field:
Champagnat Catholic, Belle Glade Glades Day vs. Village Academy, 7
Ferguson vs. Palmetto (Tropical), 4
Mourning at Hialeah Gardens, 3:30
Killian vs. Norland (N. Miami), 7
Hialeah vs. Coral Reef (Southridge), 7
Coral Park vs. South Miami (Tropical), 7
HML vs. Mater Academy (Milander), 7
Everglades at Oxbridge Academy, 7