When your star point guard is charged with three fouls in the first quarter, you know things are not going your way.
And when you endure a nearly six-minute scoring drought in the third quarter, the picture gets bleaker.
That’s how it went on Friday for Miami Country Day, the nation’s No. 1-ranked girls’ basketball team. The Spartans were upset, losing to New Hope Academy 60-52 in the Geico High School Nationals semifinals in New York City.
New Hope (37-3), located in Landover Hills, Maryland, is ranked seventh in the nation by ESPN.
Miami Country Day, which beat New Hope 61-60 in overtime earlier this season at the Tournament of Champions in Arizona, finished its season at 26-2.
Maria Alvarez, a 5-7 senior from Colombia who has signed to play for the University of South Florida, was a non-factor for most of the game, primarily due to the foul trouble. She entered the game averaging 13.8 points and has been a part of six straight state titles with the Spartans, joining the varsity in the seventh grade.
But, on this day at Christ the King High School, Alvarez didn’t score until she hit a pair of free throws with 4:55 left in the game.
The Spartans fell behind by 15 points in the second half and cut their deficit to four at 52-48 with 2:06 left. But they couldn’t stop 6-foot-2 Duke signee Jennifer Ezeh, who scored on a layup and then a put-back to stretch New Hope’s lead to 56-48.
Miami Country Day freshman Sydney Shaw had a chance to cut the Spartans’ deficit to three points with 39 seconds left. But she missed an open three-pointer – her shot veered off just a bit to the right side of the rim – and that was pretty much it for the girls from Miami Shores.
Still, it was a phenomenal season for the Spartans, who won this tournament and were named national champions in 2015 and again in 2017.
This season, the Spartans — again under coach Ochiel Swaby — started the year ranked 26th in the nation but rose up the ranks by taking on and defeating a national schedule, including St. John’s, a Washington D.C. power that is ranked second in the country and is also in this Geico tournament.
Besides Alvarez heading off to USF, Miami Country Day is graduating star forward Koi Love, who has signed with Vanderbilt. She had 14 points and eight rebounds at halftime on Friday but could not continue to carry the team during that third-quarter stretch in which her team went scoreless for 5:29.