Archbishop McCarthy playing before its rabid student rooting section “The Zoo” could level the playing field against Class 5A No. 2 American Heritage, No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons and No. 4 Dillard in a District 16-5A semifinal that has created the biggest buzz in Florida.
The District’s “Big 3” is bracing for an earful from a home fan base that helped the Morrell Center earn the distinction of most difficult South Florida High School gym for opponents to play in by the FHSAA.
Taking a page from Duke’s Cameron Crazies, “The Zoo” features supporters outfitted in full body spandex suits and wearing face paint alternating ear-curdling screams, thunderous foot stomps, creative zingers and hand-waving distractions during free-throws to rattle opponents.
Archbishop’s Brady McBride, who leads the county’s most dynamic four-guard lineup along with Elie Richard, David Moya and Corey Talbot, said “The Zoo” gets the gym so amped that opposing teams are unable to hear their own calls.
“When we are on defense I feel other teams can’t even call their plays or communicate,” McBride said. “When we are on offense, they know how to stay quiet. Having your fans out there supporting you makes you want to do that much better, hustle that much more. The only way to thank them is by winning and putting on a show for them.”
Archbishop will face Cardinal Gibbons (21-5) while American Heritage (19-6) and Dillard (18-5) will square off, which will inevitably lead to a team ranked in the state’s top four going home in the first round.
The Mavericks (18-5) have shown they belong with victories over American Heritage and Dillard, and a loss to Cardinal Gibbons on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Throw in the energy Archbishop will feed off from its zany fan base, and it’s not inconceivable, the Class 5A No. 7 Mavericks — not even on the radar before the seas on started — could be posing with the District 16-5A trophy on Saturday night.
“I think the District should be the state final four,” said Mavericks coach Mark Saxton. “It’s a championship game every time you play one of them. That is why the sixth man is so important. It is hard for other teams to come in and play their best basketball. Right now ‘The Zoo’ is invaluable.”
GIRLS’ TENNISCardinal Gibbons 3, Ft. Lauderdale 4:
Miami Beach 6, Columbus 1: