Miami High and Ferguson are each trying to find their stride a week before the playoffs begin.
The key to kick-starting a championship run might start with the next meeting between the two girls’ basketball rivals.
The growing rivalry between two of the state’s top teams is set to resume after Miami High and Ferguson each secured hard-fought victories in the GMAC semifinals Wednesday night at the Ferguson gym.
Some clutch defensive play in the final minute helped Miami High edge South Miami for a 49-45 victory in the first game. Ferguson’s guards helped the Falcons lead by as many as 20 points early as it hung on to beat Norland 49-41.
Miami High (21-3), the two-time defending Class 8A state champion, will meet Ferguson (18-6) for the second consecutive season in the GMAC final at 7 p.m. Friday at Ferguson. The Stingarees are vying for their fourth consecutive GMAC title and have won the past four meetings in the series.
“Playing Miami High is always tough no matter what,” Ferguson coach Gabriel Lazo said. “It’s a different dynamic this season obviously without [former center] Beatrice Mompremier in the middle, but they are very tough, they defend well and have to be respected.”
Even without Mompremier, a freshman at Baylor University, Miami High has remained one of Miami-Dade County and the state’s best this season — even if wins haven’t come easy.
The Stingarees (21-3), ranked No. 3 in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 10, endured through an often sloppy clash with South Miami (17-7) in which the two teams combined for 46 fouls.
Most of them were committed by the Cobras, who had four players foul out, including star center Khadijah Brown and guard Rosa Herbert. Brown finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Herbert scored eight points — all on free throws.
Senior guard Andrisia Sweeting led the Stingarees (21-3) with a game-high 18 points, which included three three-pointers. Senior Armani Paschal led the defensive effort with a game-high seven steals.
Miami High coach Sam Baumgarten wasn’t pleased, however, with his team’s free-throw shooting.
“It was ugly, but this time of year, I’ll take the victory any way we can get it,” he said. “We have to get better at the foul line. We missed, like, 19 free throws in the quarterfinals and another 22 I think [Wednesday]. That has to improve.”
Ferguson (18-6), which lost to Miami High in December in the Junior Orange Bowl Classic without star guard Gio Perez, looked effective with her in the lineup Wednesday against Norland. Perez finished with nine points, eight assists and six steals. Guard Natalia Pineda, though, led the Falcons with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Norland, which lost guard Brittney Huell at the start of the season after she tore her ACL, was even further last week when point guard Ashley Bostick hurt her shoulder, forcing her to miss this week’s tournament. Vikings coach Carla Harris said she hoped to have her back by districts next week. Edreanna Jackson and Tyana Williams each had 12 points to lead the Vikings.
Without Bostick, Norland had a tough time handling Ferguson’s quick guards on both ends of the floor. Sheslanie Laureano finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Mercy Gonzalez finished with seven rebounds and Yaire Rodriguez had eight points and five assists.
MHS (21-3): Angulo 8, Sweeting 18, Richard 3, Rodriguez 2, Weldon 5, Wilson 2, Paschal 3, Troup-Bishop 1, Rachel 3, Jackson 4. SM (17-7): Garcia 3, Thomas 3, Herbert 8, Doctor 4, Brown 14, Colson 4, Delgado 7. Half: MHS 24-20. Fouled out: Garcia, Herbert, Brown, Delgado. Three-pointers: Angulo, Sweeting 3, Garcia, Delgado. Steals: Paschal 7. Assists: Rodriguez 4. Rebounds: Brown 12.
FER (18-6): Laureano 9, Daniels 4, Perez 9, Gonzalez 1, Buitrago 3, Rodriguez 8, Pineda 15. NOR (13-9): Clarke 7, Rotan 2, Jackson 12, B. Williams 8, Ty. Williams 12. Half: FER 30-18. Fouled out: Clarke. Technical: Ferguson bench. Three-pointers: Jackson 4, Perez, Buitrago, Pineda. Rebounds: Laureano 10. Assists: Perez 8. Steals: Perez 6.
Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 10 rankings
1. Norland (17-3)
2. Westminster Academy (13-4)
3. Mater Academy (17-3)
4. Dillard (16-5)
5. Sagemont (16-5)
6. Central (16-4)
7. Archbishop Carroll (21-3)
8. Miami Christian (16-5)
9. South Miami (15-6)
10. Zion Lutheran (16-5)
Under consideration: Boyd Anderson (14-7), Nova (16-3), Coral Springs (15-5), Douglas (17-5), St. Thomas Aquinas (14-4), Dr. Krop (13-5), Miami High (12-7), McArthur (13-8), Coral Gables (17-5).
1. Miami Country Day (18-6)
2. Flanagan (19-3)
3. Miami High (21-3)
4. Ferguson (18-6)
5. Dillard (15-4)
6. Lourdes (18-6)
7. Northeast 14-6)
8. South Broward (18-6)
9. Blanche Ely (16-3)
10. Gulliver (21-3)
Under consideration: American Heritage (20-5), South Miami (17-7), Fort Lauderdale (14-8), Norland (13-9), Doral (19-4), Deerfield Beach (20-4).