A student body that nearly filled the gymnasium rushed the court after another thrilling victory for its boys’ basketball team Thursday night.
This scene hasn’t happened with too much frequency in years past at Miami Beach High.
That has changed this season.
Led by their pair of talented freshmen, Kenneth Rolle and 7-1 center Zach Brown, the Hi-Tides rallied for a 77-74 victory over visiting Pembroke Pines Flanagan to win their first regional playoff game since 1969.
Miami Beach (23-5), which won only five games last season, will next travel to Hollywood to face McArthur on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a Region 4-8A semifinal.
“People see the wins, but they don’t see the long practices and the hard work that the kids have put in with seniors pushing the freshmen in the right direction,” said Miami Beach coach Jacob Shaw, who helped turn around the Hi-Tides’ girls’ program in recent years by leading them to a pair of regional playoff appearances. “This is something that has developed over time and helped put us in this position.”
Flanagan guard Keavon Mitchell, who led the Falcons (16-9) with 22 points, hit a three-pointer to cut Miami Beach’s lead to 75-74 with 20 seconds left. But the Hi-Tides broke Flanagan’s full-court press and got the ball underneath the basket to Brown, who dunked it and drew a foul.
Brown missed the ensuing free throw, however, giving the Falcons a chance to tie. After calling a timeout with 6.3 seconds left, Flanagan began to run a play but had a pass deflected to halfcourt, forcing a desperation shot from there that was off the mark as time expired.
“Flanagan ran the ball down our throat all night, and we didn’t do a good job stopping the ball, but we did stop their shooters,” Shaw said.
Brown, who transferred from Archbishop Curley before the season, has literally been a huge part of Miami Beach’s turnaround. He finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks.
“He saved us with a lot of those points, and he usually hits his free throws,” Shaw said. “He shoots about 400 of them in practice. But he saved us by getting a lot of those rebounds and staying out of foul trouble.”
Miami Beach trailed by as many as six in the fourth quarter and trailed 63-59 with 3:07 left before Rolle, who finished with a game-high 25 points, drew a foul on a three-point shot from Flanagan guard Kyanti Blyden.
Following the whistle, Blyden ran down the court, arms flailing in disbelief and was called for a technical. Rolle proceeded to make all five free throws combined to give Beach a 64-63 lead.
The Hi-Tides did not relinquish the lead from that point on.
“I wouldn’t be scared to put [Rolle] in that situation ever,” Shaw said. “That was the key momentum swing that allowed us to win this game.”