A rivalry so intense players forgo customary fist bumps and handshakes before tipoff renewed Saturday with South Broward dispatching Nova 49-29 in the BCAA Big 8 girls’ championship final at South Plantation.
The final score did not indicate how competitive the game was until the Bulldogs went on the decisive burst in the middle of the fourth quarter to salt away their third victory in three games against their District 15-7A rival.
“I expected this game to be competitive,” Bulldogs co-head coach Richard Walker said. “Nova got back their point guard and have a great coaching staff over there. What I did learn about our team was the mental toughness. Our team is learning to persevere through adversity when we are down some athletes.”
South Broward got the Tournament MVP performance it expected from Shante Walker, who poured in a game-high 14 points, but it was her supporting cast that proved the difference in putting Nova away for good.
Natalia Leaks added eight points, Alexis McClain had 11 points and Michelle Wright scored all nine of her points in the second half.
Both Big 8 finalists came in riding an emotional high after stunning upsets in Friday’s semifinals. South Broward held on to beat Dillard, the favorite, 52-50 before the undersized and youth-laden Titans shocked Flanagan (20-4), ranked No. 2 in the Miami Herald’s South Florida poll, 50-42.
In Saturday’s final, South Broward carried the emotion from an impassioned pep talk from former Bulldogs great Tamara James into the first quarter to forge a 15-5 lead.
“Tamara, what she does for us is give our team energy,” Richard Walker said of James, a three-time state champion currently running for Dania Beach city commissioner. “She talks about the Bulldogs pride. She brings something within them out what I sometimes can’t get out of them myself. She is an asset to this coaching staff.”
Nova, which was led by Erin Gutierrez (10 points) and Gabrielle Gonzalez (eight points), hung around in the first half and then got the spark it desperately needed to make a run in the pivotal fourth quarter when Gutierrez scored back-to-back baskets to close the third quarter, cutting the lead to 27-21.
Wright, however, led the charge to put the game out of reach with a floater and a three-pointer, which preceded Shante Walker playing the passing lanes to perfection with a steal and layup for a 40-24 lead with 2:08 left.
McClain then put the icing on the cake, faking a pass and going in for a layup while getting fouled, and then flipping a no-look pass to Mackenzie Sadaka for a layup.
Nova (15-9): Gonzalez 8, Gutierrez 10, Cowart 2, Massop 2, August 7. SB (21-6): Leaks 8, Walker 14, Sadaka 5, Edema 2, Wright 9, McClain 11. Half: SB 22-14.