Perhaps the best keep secret all season long when it came to boys’ basketball in Broward County is a secret no longer.
The Western Wildcats, a program that up until two years ago had never even won a regional playoff game in the 40-year history of the school, did a whole heck of a lot more than that Monday night.
Hosting a very good Columbus team led by star power forward Reggie Luis most anticipated a competitive tightly-fought contest.
So much for that notion.
Led by senior guard Gary Adams, Western blew out to an early double digit lead and never looked back, cruising to an easy 74-46 victory in a Class 7A regional final that was delayed as the Explorers dealt with COVID-19 restriction quarantine issues over the past two weeks.
Western (14-7) advances to state final four for the first time in history and will take on Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer in a Class 7A state semifinal at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
“I’m not going to lie, as good as I know we are, I don’t think we could’ve ever imagined beating a good team like Columbus the way we did tonight,” said Western coach Alen Hardy, who in just his second year at the school has shifted the program into overdrive. “But that speaks testament to these group of kids and their determination to get all the way back here and again and this time finish it off.”
With Adams leading the way with a game-high 23 points, Western opened up an 18-9 lead after the first quarter and never allowed Columbus so much as a sniff of a chance to get back in the game.
The lead ballooned to 40-22 by halftime and, just when it looked like Columbus might be able to build a little momentum when Luis, who averages 24 points per game and was held to just seven in the first half, came out and hit the first two baskets of the second half, Adams went on his own personal 9-0 run.
A Jack Anderson three-pointer completed a 12-0 run for Western to make it 52-26 and the Explorers (16-8), who were at the center of a COVID-19 issue when two players and a coach tested positive following their district championship loss to Coral Gables three weeks ago and were forced to play their regional games with just eight players, were done on this night.
“All year long, we felt like nobody really knew how good we were but us and tonight I guess we pretty much went out there and proved it,” Adams said. “We locked them up and now we’re part of the first team to go to state and that’s a real honor. It’s unbelievable what we’ve done now we want to go up there and bring the whole thing home.”
Adams and his Western teammates celebrated in style when the game was over as they brought the ladder out and, one by one, stepped up with their scissors to cut one loop of the net at a time before Hardy finished off the final loop to wrap the net around his neck.
The euphoria was in stark contrast to a coach that had to peel his dejected players up off the floor nearly a year ago to the day when the Wildcats made it all the way to the regional final only to lose to Miramar 37-35 on a buzzer beating shot.
“That was incredibly difficult last year,” Hardy said. “But what did was it served as an appetite that really drove these kids all during the offseason and all season long. They weren’t going to leave it up to a buzzer beater tonight. We’re really excited and honored to make some history at this school for this program.”
Julian Lewis and Matt Robinson led the way on the boards for Western with 10 and nine rebounds respectively while Luis, a senior who has yet to commit but reportedly has an offer from Northwestern, led the way for Columbus with 16 points.
Big win for Doral tennis
The Doral Academy boys’ tennis team recently defeated No.1 nationally ranked Saint Andrew’s 4-3 at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.
The No.7 ranked Firebirds came into the match as underdogs against the top ranked Scots.
After dropping the No.1 doubles match, the Firebirds No.2 doubles team of Peyton Williams/Greyson Williams won 8-7 in a tiebreaker (7-4). The Firebirds then secured victories at No.4 and No.5 singles, before No.1 singles player Luis Fernandez provided a thrilling conclusion.
Battling undefeated Jacob Lowen (a University of Chicago signee), Fernandez kept his poise despite dropping his serve at 7-6 to force a tiebreaker. He won the match 8-7 by winning the tiebreaker (7-3). The Firebirds rushed the court to congratulate Fernandez and celebrate their win, the biggest in program history.
More boys’ tennis
Palmetto 4, Coral Gables 1: 1. Francisco Montana (PLM) d. Valentin Riveros 8-6; 2. Antoine Hernandez (CG) d. Alessandro Munoz 9-7; 3. Adriano Guarino (PLM) d. Adrien Naintne 8-3; 4. Sebastian Muniz (PLM) d. Michael Evelyn 8-4; 5. Matteo Sama (PLM) defeated Alejandro Gomez 8-0. PLM (4-0).
Palmetto 7, Coral Gables 0: 1. Nathalie Van Der Reis 8-1; 2. Jett Coetzee 8-1; 3. Mia Sorrentino 8-0; 4. Brooke Revulta 8-0; 5. Nicole Calmet 8-0. PLM (3-0).
Krop 4, South Broward 0: WP Brenden Katz went the distance for his 2nd shutout (7 IP, 6K, 5 H). Eiri Ortiz 3-3, 2 RBI. Krop (2-2).
Ransom Everglades 5, Key West 1: Players of the Game: RE: Jack Rivas Vasquez 4 goals; Eliot Sable 17 saves; Levi Gans 8 groundballs. KW: Wilderson Ulysse; Nick Henriquez; Ryan Kaye.
South Plantation 12, Cooper City 2: CC (1-3): Logan Wilcox 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 groundballs; Drew Chin 1 goal, 2 groundballs, 3 face off wins; Rex Kotzen 2 groundballs, 1 face off win; Kyle Miller 2 groundballs; Mark Mayrovitz 1 groundball; Jake Hicks 1 groundball; Jacob Georgianna 3 groundballs; Mackenzie Segev 2 groundballs; Julius Jimenez 2 groundballs; Matt Shoelson 3 groundballs.
Coral Shores 10, Palmer Trinity 5: PT: Sena Irving 2 goals, 3 groundballs, 4 shots on goal; Clare Lewis Battaglia 2 goals 6 groundball controls, 1 caused turnover.
Coral Shores 12, Palmer Trinity 4: PT: Clare Lewis Battaglia 4 goals, 6 groundballs.
Ransom Everglades 18, Gulliver Prep 1: RE (3-0).
Boys’ water polo
Belen Jesuit 20, St. Thomas Aquinas 14: Carlos Veccio 6 goals; Andrés Castillo 4; Dylan Veccio 3; Daniel de Lamar 2; Raúl Rodríguez 2; Adolfo Valencia 1; Antonio Franco 1; Zachary Callejas 1; Goalie Bryan Welgarz 12 blocks.
Gulliver Prep 26, Columbus 9: J.C. Pompa 4 goals, 3 assist, 7 steals; Hayaat Kay-Ramos 3 goals, 4 assists; Bailey Quintero 4 goals, 1 assist, 3 steals; Parker Rosenthal 4 goals, 1 steal. GP (4-0).
Gulliver Prep 28, Mater Lakes 3: J.C. Pompa 5 goals, 2 assists; Gabe Lewis-Keister 4 goals, 2 assists, 2 steals; Parker Rosenthal 4 goals, 1 steal; Awwal Kay-Ramos 2 goals, 3 assists, 2 steals. GP (5-0).
Gulliver Prep 18, St. Thomas Aquinas 5: Bailey Quintero 5 goals, 2 assists, 1 steal; Jeronimo Dacharry 4 goals, 4 assists, 2 steals; J.C. Pompa 4 goals, 1 assist, 1 steal; Kamal Kay-Ramos 15 blocks. GP (6-0).
Ransom Everglades 34, Coral Gables 4: Hayes Holly 9 assists, 4 steals; Lucas Gomez 5 goals, 5 assists, 5 steals; Gero Carom 10 goals, 4 assists, 7 steals.
Girls’ water polo
Gulliver Prep 26, Mater Lakes 2: Gaby Montalvo 3 goals, 5 assists, 4 steals; Alissa Pascual 3 goals, 1 assist, 3 steals; Kalei Ganser 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 steals; Emily Miller 1 goal, 5 assists, 3 steals. GP (5-0).
Gulliver Prep 19, St. Thomas Aquinas 3: Gaby Montalvo 6 goals, 3 assists, 3 steals; Giorgia Pascual 6 goals, 3 assists, 2 steals; Alissa Pascual 1 goal, 2 assists, 1 steal; Emily Miller 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 steals. GP (5-0).
Ransom Everglades 15, Coral Gables 3: Sabrina Shipley 3 goals, 3 assists, 2 steals; Mary Logan Woolsey 3 goals, 1 assist, 3 steals.
Ransom Everglades d. iMater 3 sets to one.
All County ballots for coaches
A link for the All County ballots have been sent to athletic directors. Deadline is March 15.
All County Fall Teams
The Miami Herald All County teams for Fall sports are in the Sports section of the Miami Herald website.
Email your team and individual regional tournament results to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submit varsity game results
For high schools in Broward and Miami Dade counties, if you have varsity game results for this column, email email@example.com. Varsity only.
by Jim Varsallone