With only two starters returning from last year’s state runner-up team, South Miami coach Robert Doctor instilled a “starting-over” approach into his boys’ basketball team.
Coming up on the short end of a three-team tiebreaker for the top seed in District 15-8A left the Cobras out of last week’s GMAC tournament.
South Miami took it as a chance to “start over” before the playoffs.
The Cobras’ second season began strong Wednesday night with a 41-30 victory over rival Columbus in a District 15-8A semifinal at the Explorers’ gym.
South Miami (19-4), a state runner-up in Class 8A last season, clinched a berth in next week’s regional quarterfinals and advanced to play Coral Gables in the district championship Friday at 7 p.m. at Columbus. Gables beat Braddock in the other semifinal.
“The week off was wonderful for us,” Doctor said.
“We went back to the nitty-gritty and worked on the basics and how to finish games. The kids were real fired up to get back out there.”
South Miami’s defense thrived in the low-scoring contest that had only one double-digit scorer on each side.
Senior forward Joseph Lopez, a Winthrop commitment, led the Cobras with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Columbus (15-9) battled back into the game in the third quarter, scoring 18 points after only having scored nine in the first half. David Diaz led the Explorers with 13 points and made three three-pointers.
But the Cobras pulled away in the fourth quarter, not allowing any points for the final six-plus minutes of the game.
“Columbus is a team that always gives us a go no matter what team they have,” Doctor said. “[Lopez] told me he’d make sure we’d get this victory, and he was wonderful in this game.”