High School Sports

Miami Country Day girls’ basketball team rolls into 3A final

Miami Country Day’s Kelsey Marshall heads for the basket against Calvary Christian during the first half of the FHSAA Girls’ 3A Basketball semifinals at The Lakeland Center on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in Lakeland, Fla.
Miami Country Day’s Kelsey Marshall heads for the basket against Calvary Christian during the first half of the FHSAA Girls’ 3A Basketball semifinals at The Lakeland Center on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in Lakeland, Fla. For the Herald

Miami Country Day’s girls’ basketball team knows just how good it is.

The Spartans figured they’d be playing in the state finals again even before the season began.

But overconfidence hasn’t been an issue.

Miami Country Day showed no complacency Tuesday afternoon during a 71-35 rout of Clearwater Calvary Christian at The Lakeland Center that clinched the Spartans their third consecutive trip to the Class 3A final.

The Spartans (29-2), ranked No. 6 nationally by USA Today, will play Seffner Christian on Wednesday at 4:35 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s final.

Country Day has a chance to become only the fifth Miami-Dade County school to win back-to-back state championships in girls’ basketball, joining Miami Norland, Miami Monsignor Pace, Miami Edison and Miami Northwest Christian.

“I thought we came out with very good energy,” Miami Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby said. “My only concern for this group was that we don’t have enough respect for an opponent. We have plenty of respect for Calvary Christian and we knew they had talent, so we made sure we matched their energy.”

After Calvary Christian (27-2) scored the opening basket of the game, Country Day scored the next six points to take the lead for good and used a 23-2 surge to effectively put the game out of reach before halftime.

The Spartans led by as many as 42 points in the second half.

“We played such a tough schedule that we faced a lot of teams that are tougher than the teams in our class,” Swaby said. “It’s no disrespect to the teams in our class, but we’ve seen a certain level of competition that prepared us for this.”

Country Day was sharp from the outset, shooting 17 for 29 in the first half and 28 of 53 (52.8 percent) for the game. Calvary Christian went only 3 for 17 (17.6 percent) from the field in the first quarter and 7 for 31 (22.6 percent) for the first half.

The Spartans’ aggressive full-court pressure took over from there and allowed Country Day to go on another 15-0 run in the second half, forcing the 35-point mercy-rule running clock in the third quarter.

“We’re a team of spurts,” Swaby said. “One thing we always try to do is force teams to play faster than they are comfortable doing. It didn’t seem they had seen a team like us that can play at that fast tempo.”

About the only unusual occurrence for Country Day was star sophomore guard Channise Lewis going scoreless in the first half.

That didn’t last too long as Lewis scored the first nine points of the third quarter to force the running clock. Lewis finished with 11 points and seven steals.

Country Day also used its 1-2 punch in the paint to dominate inside as forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo scored 15 points and had seven rebounds, and Michelle Berry totaled 12 points and seven rebounds.

MCD (29-2): Edwards 2, Berry 12, Alvarez 9, Lewis 11, Marshall 9, Jackson 7, Anyagaligbo 15, Pierre 6. CC (27-2): White 2, C. Plentovich 12, Polasky 8, S. Plentovich 6, Chappell 7. Half: MCD 47-17. Three-pointers: Alvarez 3, Lewis, Marshall, Pierre, C. Plentovich 2, Polasky 2, S. Plentovich, Chappell. Rebounds: Berry, Anyagaligbo 7. Assists: Lewis 7. Steals: Austin 3. Blocks: Anyagaligbo 2.

State girls’ basketball finals

When: Through Saturday.

Where: The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland.

Admission: $10 per session; parking: $8.

Tuesday’s results: Class 2A semifinals: Tallassee FAMU 74, Land O’Lakes Academy at the Lakes 45; Boca Raton Grandview Prep 74, Sarasota Christian 41; Class 3A semifinals: Seffner Christian 69, Jacksonville University Christian 56; Miami Country Day 71, Clearwater Calvary Christian 35; Class 4A semifinals: Orlando Lake Highland Prep 66, Jacksonville Ribault 54; Fort Myers Dunbar 61, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman 39.

Wednesday’s schedule: Class 1A semifinals: Hilliard vs. Wildwood, noon; Paxton vs. Freeport, 1:30; Class 3A final: Miami Country Day vs. Seffner Christian, 4:35; Class 4A final: Lake Highland Prep vs. Dunbar, 8:05.