Miami Central has collected state championship trophies for both football and basketball.
But until Thursday night, a GMAC county basketball title was missing.
Led by a smothering performance from its talented backcourt, the Rockets overwhelmed Miami Beach for a 66-37 victory at the Miami High gym that secured what is believed to be Central’s first GMAC boys’ basketball championship.
“This means a lot to us, and it shows that all our hard work is paying off,” Central guard Phillip Saunders said.
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Central (20-4), which won a state championship in 1978, is hoping to make a pretty good push in this year’s playoffs.
Central is the No. 2 seed in next week’s District 16-7A tournament behind American.
The Rockets also know an extended playoff run likely means an inevitable clash with unbeaten, nationally ranked and four-time state champion Blanche Ely.
The Rockets have not won a regional playoff game since 1998 but are confident they can repeat as district champions next week and end that postseason drought thereafter.
“We’re definitely excited to bring this one home, first time for our school,” Central coach Maurice Troupe said. “This game seals the deal for this week, but not for the season. This is a great start for us.”
After Miami Beach (14-11) cut the lead to 13 late in the third quarter, Central broke the game open by scoring 24 of the next 25 points.
The Rockets were led by Saunders’ 20 points, six rebounds and three steals, and Anthony Wilson’s 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and seven steals.
Central also did a solid job denying Miami Beach 7-1 sophomore center Zach Brown the ball down low. Brown finished with 12 points, but his scoring opportunities were limited by the Rockets guards and good inside defense from forward Deandre Wynn.
“I hope we take this win into districts,” Troupe said. “We need to keep building momentum. We have to stay humble, keep God first, trust in your teammates and coaches, and the rest is history. We still have more work to do.”
CEN (20-4): Saunders 20, Turner 5, Nunnally 2, Wilson 11, Wilkerson 2, Occi 10, Gibson 1, McFadden 13, Wynn 2. MB (14-11): Gale 4, M. Melendez 3, K. Melendez 4, Rolle 5, Goetz 9, Brown 12. Site: Miami High. Half: CEN 27-16. Three-pointers: Saunders 4, Wilson, Occi, M. Melendez, Goetz. Rebounds: Wilson 7. Assists: Wilson 5. Steals: Wilson 7.