The Ferguson girls’ basketball team’s road back to the regional finals had its share of setbacks.
So did its Friday night clash against Miami High.
But when the Falcons finally overcame their biggest obstacle the past three years, none of it mattered.
Guards Gio Perez and Sheslanie Laureano scored 23 of their combined 24 points in the second half to rally Ferguson to a 44-38 win over two-time defending state champion Miami High and clinch the Falcons’ first trip to the state finals.
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Ferguson (22-7) will take on Vero Beach on Friday at either 2 or 4 p.m. at The Lakeland Center in a Class 8A state semifinal. The loss snapped Miami High’s three-year run of advancing to the state tournament.
“This is so huge for a young program like us against a program like Miami High and at their gym,” said Ferguson coach Gabriel Lazo, a Miami High alum. “It’s so tough to get a win here, and I was worried in the second half because of our youth against them being a veteran team. I guess it’s just our turn.”
The Falcons trailed by as many as 11 points just before halftime and were held to only three points in the first quarter.
Their top guard, senior and Stony Brook University signee Gio Perez, picked up three fouls in the quarter, forcing Lazo to bench her for most of the rest of the half and go to a lineup of four sophomores and one freshman.
Laureano, one of those sophomores, scored all 11 of her points in the second half, including two big three-pointers. She also finished with 10 rebounds.
And Perez returned and delivered 10 of her 11 points in the second half as well and had six assists.
Ferguson closed the game on an 11-2 run and did not allow the Stingarees (26-4), who missed four free throws down the stretch, to score for the final four minutes of the game. Sophomore Natalia Pineda, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals, gave Ferguson its first lead with 3:25 to go.
The Falcons also struggled with their foul shooting overall, but Perez made two free throws following a steal to make it a two-score game with 48.5 seconds remaining.
“This means everything to us and going to state is the best feeling in the world,” Perez said. “I had faith in my teammates the whole time. We’re a young team, but we have a lot of heart and we’ve kept fighting and we won’t back down.”
FER (22-7): Laureano 11, Perez 11, Buitrago 4, Rodriguez 3, Kingwood 3, Pineda 12. MHS (26-4): Angulo 6, Sweeting 2, Richard 7, Weldon 8, Paschal 4, Jackson 11. Half: MHS 24-16. Fouled out: Richard. Three-pointers: Laureano 2, Richard, Perez, Rodriguez. Rebounds: Laureano 10. Assists: Perez 6. Steals: Pineda 4.
More Girls’ Playoffs
Region 4-7A Final: South Broward 59, Fort Lauderdale 53: South Broward girls’ basketball coach Richard Walker said he felt his team could get to state, since he watched his players participate in summer travel ball. Junior center Shante Walker said she could see it in the fall.
Regardless of the timing of the vision, it’s now a reality.
With a pair of 20-point performances from its two bigs, South Broward is headed back to the final four for the first time since 2010.
With South Broward leading by as many as 11 in the third quarter, Fort Lauderdale cut the deficit down to three with 2:24 remaining after a pair of steals led to six points in 16 seconds.
The Bulldogs (29-6) settled down, stopped turning it over and Rabiyah Bell hit a critical jumper in transition late. Walker finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Not to be outdone, frontcourt mate Alexis McClain put up 20 and nine.
“We felt like we could really get the ball inside,” said Richard Walker. “It started off a little stagnant because we’re a shooting team as well, but our goal was to get it inside.”
Added Shante, who is being recruited by UCF, UM, Michigan State and Massachusetts: “My team was getting me open spots, giving me good passes. We were dominating inside.”
At the state semifinals on Friday in Lakeland, the Bulldogs, which won the BCAA Big 8 title, will get a team that’s big up front in its own right in Winter Haven.
South Broward allowed a pair of big runs to keep the Flying L’s in the game in the first half. Fort Lauderdale went on separate 8-0 and 11-0 runs sandwiched by a South Broward 10-0 run as the Bulldogs went into halftime up 29-28.
The Flying L’s (20-9) hung tough despite having just seven players active. Keyanna Warthen and Melanie De Oleo scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, and TaMiracle Taylor added 10.
SB: Walker 20, McClain 20, Leaks 14, Bell 5. FTL: Warthen 16, De Oleo 14, Charlton 9, Taylor 10, Poole 4. Half: SB 29-28. 3-pointers: De Oleo 4, Charlton 3, Walker 2. Rebounds: Walker 11. Assists: Wright 5. Steals: Wright 4.
Region 4-5A Final: Orlando-Bishop Moore 54, American Heritage 51: With 23 seconds left in the game, a 3-pointer by Reilly Boehm put Bishop Moore ahead for good and ended host American Heritage’s season Friday night.
“As a first year coach coming in with just seven players, we exceed expectations,” American Heritage coach Greg Farias said.
With 1:19 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots led 49-44. Boehm, the daughter of Bishop Moore coach Dave Boehm, scored the rest of the Hornets’ points.
Heritage (24-6) started the game on a 8-0 run and held Bishop Moore (24-6) to one first quarter field goal. Bishop Moore took its first lead in the final two seconds of the third quarter. The Patriots started the fourth quarter on a 11-1 run.
Auviance Lindo led Heritage with 16 points, and Taylor Smith added 14 points. Boehm had 20 points.
Bishop Moore will face Lecanto in a state semifinal Thursday at the Lakeland Center.
AH: Smith 14, Lindo 16, Willis 13, Duren 2, Kruss 2, Sims 4. BM: Tomey 6, McKenna 8, Boehm 20, Davis 12, Sweeney 1, Gravitte 2, Tessitore 5. 3-pointers: Boehm 2, McKenna 2, Willis. Half: AH 23-18.
Region 3-8A Final: Boca Raton 71, Deerfield Beach 47.
Boys’ Basketball Playoffs
Thursday: Region 4-2A QF: Champagnat 69, Westwood 39: Champ: Brennan 8, oquendo 2, Cortijo 13, Ferguson 14, Murida 2, Garcia 10, Jenoure 18, Tejada 2. West: Monell 6, Molina 6, Osceola 14, Guitan 9, Mejias 4. Half: Champ 38-24. 3-pointers: Cortijo 2, Molina 2, Osceola 2, Monell 1, Mejias 1. Rebounds: Jenoure 12. Assists: Brennan 5. Steals: Ferguson 3.
Thursday: Region 3-3A QF: Westminster Academy 74, NPB-Benjamin 42: WA (22-6): Scott 20, Butler 9, Atkinson 13, Johnston 13, MacClugage 5, Curlee 3, Santos 4, Ledbetter 3, Christian 3, Dragovic 2. Benj: Kasten 12, Elam 10, Taylor 5, Manos 5, Lyttle 5, Lubarsky 5. Rebounds: Atkinson 13. Assists: 6.
Thursday: Region 4-7A QF: Mater Academy 64, Nova 33: MA (24-4): Mejia 15, Diaz 11, Frye 12, Rodriguez 2, Stern 11, Monsanto 2, Duquesne 9, De La Rua 2. Nova: Griffin 3, Thompson 2, Desouza 7, S.Coddington 13, Walker 2, A.Coddington 2, Bennett 4. Halftime: MA 31-17. 3-pointers: Coddington 2. Mejia 2, Griffin, Desouza, Frye, Duquesne. Rebounds: Stern 11, Diaz 11. Assists: Frye 7. Steals: Frye 4. Blocks: Duquesne 2, Diaz 2.
Thursday: More Quarterfinals: Region 3-8A: Coral Springs 70, Piper 35. Region 3-8A: Cypress Bay 80, Taravella 46. Region 4-7A: Blanche Ely 57, Dwyer 52. Region 4-7A: Royal Palm Beach 68, St. Thomas Aquinas 57. Region 4-6A: Dillard 68, Okeechobee 52. Region 4-6A: Boyd Anderson 72, Sebastian River 52. Region 4-5A: Riviera Beach Suncoast 69, American Heritage 50. Region 4-5A: Coconut Creek 70, Port St. Lucie 64. Region 4-4A: Gulliver 70, Booker T. 51. Region 4-4A: Westminster Christian 80, Mater Lakes 71. Region 4-4A: Chaminade 60, Coral Springs Charter 57. Region 4-4A: Boca-St. Andrew’s 59, Calvary Christian 56. Region 4-3A: Archbishop Carroll 62, Palmer Trinity 32. Region 4-3A: Greater Miami Academy 67, Somerset Charter 50. Region 4-3A: Miami Country Day 80, Somerset Central Miramar 57. Region 4-3A: SLAM 38, Dade Christian 35. Region 4-2A: Boca-Grandview Prep 103, Northwest Christian 51. Region 4-2A: Zion Lutheran 71, Boca Raton Christian 30. Region 4-2A: Miami Christian 70, Schoolhouse Prep 40.