Prior to the 2017-18 high school boys’ basketball season, Doral Academy’s playoff history had been brief.
One victory in five regional playoff appearances, but now the Firebirds are poised to claim an unexpected Class 7A State Championship, their first in school history.
The Firebirds defeated Cape Coral 52-28 in a state semifinal game at the RP Funding Center on Friday and will play Choctawhatchee for the championship on Saturday at 2.
Defense was once again the key in the Firebirds advancement. In their three regional games, they yielded an average of 45.0 points per game.
“Defense has been what has gotten us here,” Doral coach Jorge Fernandez said. “We’ve won the majority of our games because of defense, so there’s no reason to change now.”
The victory extended Doral’s winning streak to 20 games. During that stretch they have held their opponents to 45 points or less 19 times.
The statistics don’t lie on how impressive the Doral defense was on this day.
They held Cape Coral to 31 percent from the field, won the turnover battle 21-9 and had 21 steals. As good as those facts were Doral held its opponent without their initial basket until there was 4:09 left in the first quarter.
The second half was no better for the Seahawks as their first field goal didn’t come until 6:20 left in the game. They were held scoreless in the third quarter.
“Doral is a very good team,” Cape Coral coach Brandon Sensor said. “They do a great job on defense. They denied the wings a lot and we couldn’t get the reversal pass. Their pressure off the ball hurt us.”
Senior guards Kobbie and Reggie Perez scored 16 and 13 points, respectively, to lead the Firebirds. Miguel Ayesa added 12 points.
“Our coaches push us at practice and that gets us prepared for the games,” said Reggie Perez.
The first half played perfectly to the Firebirds script.
Patience and defense was a huge part why they built a 32-17 halftime lead. Doral committed only three turnovers, while holding the Seahawks to a 33.3 percent shooting from the floor.
But as good as that was, the Firebirds held their opponent zero points in the third quarter.
“We controlled the clock in the third quarter, and our zone really stymied them a lot,” said Fernandez. “It wasn’t the first time that we’ve held a team scoreless in a quarter.”
DORAL ACADEMY 52, CAPE CORAL 28
DA (29-2): R. Perez 4-2-13, Nunez 4-0-8, K. Perez 6-3-16 Ayesa 5-0-12, Mercado 1-0-3.
CC (24-8): Markovich 2-0-4, Gibson 2-0-4, Moreno 1-0-2, Francois 2-5-10, Masson 0-2-2, Thomas 1-1-4, Smaller 1-0-2.
3-pointers: R. Perez 3, Ayesa 2, K. Perez, Francois, Thomas. Half: DA 32-17.