Ferguson’s girls didn’t walk away with the trophy they wanted Tuesday night.
But the Falcons might have earned some of the valuable experience they will need if they hope to make a push for the Class 8A state championship this season.
After leading for a little more than a half of basketball, Ferguson eventually succumbed to Virginia’s Paul VI High, ranked No.15 nationally by USA Today, and 6-4 senior Jonquanae Cole, losing 44-37 in the girls’ final of the Junior Orange Bowl tournament at Reagan High in Doral.
Cole, an N.C. State commit, scored 14 points and had 11 rebounds and was named the tournament’s MVP.
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Ferguson (14-1), ranked No.3 in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20, suffered its first loss of the season a day after defeating previously unbeaten Seffner Christian in the tournament’s semifinals.
“We’re having a good year, and this game was a really big test for us,” Ferguson coach Gabriel Lazo said. “This field is very strong, and we beat two really good opponents to get here. It’s a great experience for my kids.”
Junior guard Giolibeth Perez led the Falcons with 14 points and three steals. Senior guard Annie Osceola finished with eight points. Both earned All-Tournament honors.
But 18 turnovers and a prolonged second-half scoring drought doomed the Falcons.
Paul VI outscored Ferguson 16-2 in the third quarter and used a 14-0 surge to take a 35-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. Perez scored on consecutive possessions for the Falcons to cut the deficit to six, but moments later the Panthers went on another run of six consecutive points to put the game away.
“Our guard play really has been great this season,” Lazo said. “We really stepped it up against a solid, well-coached team that’s nationally ranked for a reason.”
Ferguson forward Kamaria Johnson did a solid job defending Cole in the first half, as did the Falcons as a whole, limiting Paul VI to only two first-quarter points. But a spurt of eight quick points sparked by Ferguson turnovers caused by full-court pressure put the Panthers in front and swung the early momentum.
“I’ll go to war with these kids any day,” Lazo said. “Gio and Annie played great, and Kamaria doesn’t get enough credit for the player she is. Every night we were here, we had a different player step up. We just ran into a team that was just better than us.”
Also earning All-Tournament honors from South Florida were Miami High’s Beatrice Mompremier and Davie Nova’s Kianni Lurry.
▪ Junior Orange Bowl Classic Championship — Paul VI (Va.) 44, Ferguson 37: FER (14-1): A. Osceola 8, G. Perez 14, Y. Rodriguez 2, N. Pineda 9, K. Johnson 4. PVI (8-1): R. James 8, J. Whitney 6, K. Meador 2, K. Hunter 10, K. Klimkiewicz 2, V. Diaz 2, J. Cole 14. Half: FER 22-17 Rebounds: FER: Pineda 8. PVI: Cole 11. Assists: FER: Osceola 1, Perez 1, Rodriguez 1. PVI: Whitney 3. Steals: FER: Perez 3. Blocks: Hunter 2.