Miami Country Day’s girls’ basketball team brought home its school’s first state championship in its 75-year history this past February.
The Spartans are aiming higher this season.
With a deeper and possibly even stronger team this season, Miami Country Day is not only an overwhelming favorite to repeat as state champs in Class 3A.
The Spartans are likely to ascend the national rankings as well.
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“We lost a great player in [Syracuse signee] Danielle Minott, but we returned four starters,” Miami Country Day coach Ochiel Swaby said. “But even more important, we have depth this season, which is something we haven’t had before.”
The Spartans, who finished 26-3 last season and were ranked No.18 nationally by MaxPreps, will test themselves often against national competition as they participate in three highly competitive out-of-town tournaments in Jacksonville (Potters House Invitational), Orlando (Florida Prospects) and Naples.
Miami Country Day will also play some of the state’s best, including Nova, Melbourne Florida Air Academy and Jacksonville Ribault.
“We’re trying to prove ourselves nationally,” Swaby said. “We have 10 players who can play at a very high level and who we trust in the game at any time.”
Miami Country Day’s talented roster is led by star sophomore guard Channise Lewis (5-8), who Swaby said is already being considered by Illinois, UM, FSU and Florida, to name a few.
Lewis, already a big part of the Spartans state championship last season and state runner-up team in 2013, is expected to take on more of a leadership role this season following Minott’s departure.
Miami Country Day’s frontcourt is led by returning senior forwards Ogechi Anyagaligbo (6-0), a Stony Brook commitment, and Michelle Berry (6-1), a Cal State Fullerton commitment.
The backcourt returns senior guard Stephanie Mackenzie and eighth-grader Maria Alvarez, both sharpshooters who should make the Spartans dangerous from three-point range.
The newest addition is 5-8 sophomore guard Kelsey Marshall, a transfer from Weston Sagemont who will add even more scoring potential.
“The biggest challenge with some of these kids is keeping them focused and motivated after experiencing this kind of success at such a young age,” Swaby said. “It’s easy to get complacent, but my goal is to keep the grind going for this team and not let us lose focus on the goal.”
Miami High enjoyed the national spotlight last season, earning a Top 20 ranking and an invitational to the National High School Invitational after winning the school’s second state title in the sport.
The Stingarees are vying for more this season with star senior center Beatrice Mompremier back in the lineup. Mompremier (6-4) is rated No.42 nationally by ESPN and averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds per game last season.
Miami High (31-1 last season) graduated guard Amanda Mendoza but has several players ready to fill the void, making the Stings the favorite entering the season in Class 8A.
A handful of challengers, however, are eager to dethrone Miami High.
Ferguson leads the pack with a talented squad that has solid guard play in returning senior Annie Osceola (15 ppg. last season) and junior newcomer Giolibeth Perez (13 ppg.). Lourdes and South Miami are also among the contenders.
Monday: Season began.
Dec. 20-23: Holiday tournaments.
Dec. 27-30: Junior Orange Bowl Classic at Reagan.
Jan. 19-24: GMAC tournament week.
Jan. 20: MLK Classic.
Jan. 26-31: District tournaments.
Feb. 5: Regional quarterfinals.
Feb. 10: Regional semifinals.
Feb. 13-14: Regional finals.
Feb. 17-21: State finals at The Lakeland Center.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Miami High; 7A: Apopka Wekiva; 6A: Orlando Edgewater; 5A: Bradenton Southeast; 4A: Jacksonville Ribault; 3A: Miami Country Day; 2A: Boca Grandview Prep; 1A: Paxton.
TOP 10 TEAMS
1. Miami Country Day; 2. Miami High; 3. Ferguson; 4. Lourdes; 5. Norland; 6. Palmer Trinity; 7. South Miami; 8. Gulliver; 9. Southridge; 10. Florida Christian.
1. MIAMI HIGH: Coach: Sam Baumgarten, 6th year. Last year: 31-1 (state champions). Top players: C Beatrice Mompremier, 6-4, Sr.; F Annette Dukes, 6-0, Sr.; PG Andrisa Sweeting, 5-3, Jr.; G Annelisse Vargas, 5-8, Sr.
2. FERGUSON: Coach: Gabriel Lazo, 3rd year, 37-19. Last year: 22-7 (regional finalist). Top players: G Annie Osceola, Sr.; G Giolibeth Perez, Jr.; F Kamaria Johnson, Sr.; F Karla Lopez, Sr.
3. LOURDES: Coach: Chris McKeon, 14th year, 236-72. Last year: 18-8. Top players: G Vero Minervino, 5-1, Jr.; F Daniella Midolo, 5-11, So.; F Erica Moralejo, 5-9, Jr.; G Shanna Kunkle, 5-9, So.
4. SOUTH MIAMI: Coach: Nicky Fox, 12th year. Last year: 24-5 (regional semifinalist). Top players: Khadijah Brown, Ka’neeshia Brown, Stephaisa Doctor.
5. SOUTHRIDGE: Coach: Octavius Hawkins, 1st year. Last year: 15-8. Top players: SG Rosa Herbert, 5-9, Jr.; PG Ciara Knox, 5-6, So.; SF Tykira Dawson, 5-10, So.; PF Tajae Jones, 5-10, Sr.
6. DR. KROP: Coach: Ray Thompson, 15th year, 208-86. Last year: 18-7 (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: G Jasmine Albert, 5-10, Sr.; F Isis Julmiste, 5-11, Sr.; G Sonia Broman, 5-9, Sr.; G Lenee Blot, 5-10, Jr.
7. HIALEAH: Coach: Denoff Johnson, 12th year, 172-99. Last year: 10-12. Top players: F Adriana Charles, 5-9, Sr.; F Stephanie Charles, 5-10, Sr.; G Emar Dormer, 5-5, Sr.; G Taylor Jones, 5-7, So.
8. VARELA: Coach: Ryan Schneider. Last year: 15-9. Top players: G Sabrina Verdes, 5-6, Sr.; PG Natasha Polanco, 5-6, So.; F Leana Lu, 5-7, So.; G Cassandra Iglesia, 5-5, Jr.
9. CORAL REEF: Coach: Mark Wynn, 2nd year at CR. Last year: 12-9. Top players: G Carla Rodriguez, 5-2, Sr.; G Angela Ferguson, 5-7, Sr.; G Shakeyla Flores, 5-4, Sr.; F J’Kira Delancy, 5-7, Jr.
10. PALMETTO: Coach: Lisa Nanninga, 3rd year at PAL, 7th overall, 70-67. Last year: 5-14. Top players: G Danielle Gross, 5-7, Sr.; G Shanon Renouf, 5-7, Jr.; PG Clara Solar, 5-2, So.; F Colissa Alford, 5-8, Sr.
11. CORAL GABLES: Coach: A.J. Sheppard, 2nd year. Last year: 6-13. Top players: SF-PF Britnee Ellison, 5-11, Sr.; C-PF Emilia Alvarez, 5-10, Sr.; PG Dayana Rangel, 5-4, Sr.; G Jessica Lansberg, 5-5, Jr.
12. BRADDOCK: Coach: Janis Drummonds, 20th year. Last year: N/A. Top players: G-F Jany Mirquda, 5-8, Jr.; G Kaitlin Sanchez, 5-0, Jr.; F Alyssa Flores, 5-6, Sr.; F-C Alysia Long-Moses, 5-7, Jr.
13. NORTH MIAMI: Coach: Louis Presume, 1st year. Last year: 7-12. Top players: G Gabbriella Gassant, 5-2, Sr.; G Tia Bailey, 5-6, So.; PF Cardrica Theoc, 5-8, Sr.; SG Cherlyne St. Gilles, 5-2, Jr.
14. SUNSET: Coach: J.C. Diaz, 3rd year, 5-29. Last year: 5-14. Top players: G Katherine Espinosa, 5-4, Sr.; F-C Denica Jones 5-10, Jr.; G Marjurie Zuniga, 5-3, So.; F Sabrina Perez, 5-6, Jr.
1. AMERICAN: Coach: Torres, 18th year. Last year: 24-4 (regional semifinalist). Top players: G Brianna Vargas, 5-5, Sr.; C Katherine Martinez, 6-1, Jr.; G Amaya Dixon, 5-7, Fr.; PG Nina Hudson, 5-5, Sr.
2. REAGAN: Coach: James Sanchez, 9th year, 67-85. Last year: 13-10. Top players: G Valentina Velez, 5-6, So.; F Dasha Saied, 5-9, Sr.
1. NORLAND: Coach: Carla Harris, 16th year. Last year: 17-10 (state semifinalist). Top players: F Tyana Williams, 6-3, Jr.; F Jeanysha Jean-Baptiste, 5-8, Sr.; G Ashley Harrison, 5-1, Sr.; F Janet Harrison, 5-10, Sr.
2. CENTRAL: Coach: Tracy Reid, 2nd year, 11-8. Last year: 11-8 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: Kayla Mosquera, So.; Aquilla Knowles, Sr.; Tiera Chambers, Sr.; Tara Britt, Sr.
3. MATER ACADEMY: Coach: Daniel Rodriguez, 3rd year, 28-20). Last year: 15-9. Top players: PG Emily Acosta, 5-5, Jr.; C Melanie Hernandez, 5-8, Sr.; SG Solamy Galvez, 5-5, Sr.; PF Alanis Sandoval, 5-7, Sr.
4. DORAL: Coach: Rey Perez, 3rd year, 21-22. Last year: 13-10. Top players: PF Angela Gomez, 5-7, Jr.; C Daniela Rondon, 5-8, Jr.; SG Victoria Machado, 5-4, Jr.; SF Gabrielle Llamo, 5-6, Jr.
5. CAROL CITY: Coach: Sonia Cotton Ambrose. Last year: N/A. Top players: F Amani Heaven, 6-0, Fr.; G Jada Johnson, 5-9, Jr.; G Markyha Brantley, 5-8, Fr.; PG Lashaunte White, 5-1, So.
1. GULLIVER: Coach: John Zambolla, 8th year, 184-98). Last year: 26-5 (state semifinalist). Top players: PG Mia Bellinghereri, 5-7, Sr.; G Natalija Dubrovina, 6-0, Sr.; F Mikayla Thomas, 6-1, So.; F Minja Ranisavljvic, 6-1, Sr.
2. FLORIDA CHRISTIAN: Coach: Amanda Guilfoyle, 2nd year, 20-8). Last year: 20-8 (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: PG Nicole Jimenez, 5-3, Sr.; G Rebecca Maura, 5-6, Sr.; PF Katherine Jim, 5-9, Sr.; SF Madison Irvine, 5-11, So.
3. RANSOM EVERGLADES: Coach: Christine Peluso, 10th year at RE, 18th overall, 229-144. Last year: 13-8. Top players: G Adriana Lopez, 5-7, Sr.; G Sari Oppenheim, 5-3, Sr.; F-C Madison Stern, 6-0, Sr.; F Tiana Hallman, 5-9, Sr.
4. LA SALLE: Coach: David Fernandez, 1st year. Last year: Regional quarterfinalist. Top players: G Nicole Lorenzo, 5-7, Sr.; F Jailene Cruz, 5-11, Jr.; G Alina Montoto, 5-8, Sr.; G Amanda Alfaro, 5-6, Sr.
5. ST. BRENDAN: Coach: Mickey Falla, 2nd year, 17-10. Last year: 17-10. Top players: C Raquel Murillo, 5-10, Sr.; G Emma Dominguez, 5-3, Jr.; F Lil Padro, 5-7, Jr.; G Carolina Prieto, 5-4, Fr.
6. KEYS GATE: Coach: Ben Drummer, 2nd year, 6-14. Last year: 6-14. Top players: PG Brittany Tyre, 5-4, 7th; C Angela Denis, 5-11, Fr.; SG Yesenia Velez, 5-4, Fr.; F Megan Ward, 5-7, Jr.
7. CARROLLTON: Coach: Jason Prosper, 2nd year at CAR, 6th overall). Last year: 1-14. Top players: PG Tanya Eathakotti, Fr.; SF Jane Noel, Jr.
1. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY: Coach: Ochiel Swaby, 11th year, 204-72). Last year: 26-3 (state champions). Top players: G Channise Lewis, 5-8, So.; G Kelsey Marshall, 5-8, So.; F Ogechi Anyagaligbo, 6-0, Sr.; F Michelle Berry, 6-1, Sr.
2. PALMER TRINITY: Coach: James Valle, 8th year, 151-65). Last year: 25-3 (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SG Claire Hebb, 5-10, Sr.; SF Kyrah James, 5-10, Jr.; C Samantha Waldman, 6-0, Sr.; C Aasiya Berry, 6-2, Fr.
3. SLAM CHARTER: Coach: Avery Swarn, 1st year). Last year: 7-6. Top players: F Jeri Richard, 5-7, Jr.; SG Arielys Rodriguez, 5-4, So.
4. ARCHBISHOP CURLEY: Coach: Greg Magner, 8th year). Last year: 11-7. Top players: G Ashley Savain, 5-6, Jr.; G Sarisha Wiggins, 5-4, So.; C Janelle Forbes, 5-9, Fr.; F Katiana Desaraies, 5-8, Sr.
SCHOOLHOUSE PREP: Coach: Cristina Arguello, 1st year. Last year: 1st year program. Top players: F-C Kailani Osceola, 5-8, Fr.; G Davena Osceola, 5-5, Fr.; G Skaila Billie Tiger, 5-2, Fr.; G Cameron Osceola, 5-4, Fr.
Andre C. Fernandez