After suffering a heartbreaking defeat in Florida’s Class 8A championship game last year, Boca Raton is hoping to reach the mountaintop of girls basketball this season.
With a talented senior nucleus, highlighted by Harvard signee Rachel Levy and Grace Marko, who signed with Boston College, the Bobcats enter the season as in prime position to capture their first state title in school history.
Under sixth-year coach Nhu Nyugen, Boca Raton has catapulted into the state’s elite. Two years ago, the team made its first state tournament appearance, but fell in the semifinals. Last year, the Bobcats reached the championship before losing to Vero Beach in double overtime.
Now, Boca Raton is aiming to take the final step in its rapid ascent up the ranks of Florida’s top girls squads. After last year’s 26-7 season, the Bobcats are one of the favorites to capture the state title in the newly formed Class 9A. While Boca moves up a classification, it’s mostly the same as what was previously 8A, with the three other final four teams moving up as well.
While the Bobcats have to replace starters Tracey Kemp and Tatijana Ferguson, the team returns plenty of offensive firepower. At 6-foot-4, Levy provided the team with a versatile scoring threat both inside and outside. Levy earned Sun Sentinel Player of the Year honors last season after averaging 16.7 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Marko , a 6-foot guard, gives the team another dynamic scoring weapon with size. Junior Hannah Pratt, a 6-foot-1 forward, was a key contributor on last year’s squad as well, averaging over five points and five rebounds a game. Freshmen newcomers Kelsey Mingo and Grace Alferi are expected to play key roles for the team as well.
Wanting to test his team, Nyugen has put together a stiff non-district schedule, with defending 3A champion Miami County Day, 6A champ Fort Myers, 7A champ Winter Haven and St. Frances (N.Y.) all looming.
Grandview aiming for Lakeland return
After finishing the regular season 13-12, Grandview Prep was a major playoff surprise as it ended up reaching the Class 2A state semifinals. The Pride will be one of the more interesting teams, considering the make-up of last year’s team.
On the downside, coach Ian Clark has to replace pugnacious All-County guard Kristin Rampersad, who averaged 26 points, 6 rebounds and three steals for the district and regional champs. On the plus side, the Pride return everyone else from last season’s roster.
Junior Alex Romer (who last year averaged 12 points and 5 assists) and Rampersad’s younger sister Megan (8 points, 7 rebounds) will be key figures on a Pride team looking to capture its first state title since 2014.
Nov. 29-Dec. 1: Berean Christian Turkey Shootout; Dec. 9-10: CCA Invitational at Calvary Christian; Dec. 16-17: Scots Holiday Classic at St. Andrew’s; Dec. 16-20: Kreul Classic; Dec. 26-28: JIL Christmas Tournament, D Hop Classic, Palm Beach Shootout, Deerfield Beach Christmas Tournament; Dec. 28-30: Orange Bowl Girls Basketball Classic; Jan. 26-28: BCAA Big 8 tournament; Jan. 30-Feb 4: District tournaments; Feb. 9: Regional quarterfinals; Feb. 9: 5A-9A Regional quarterfinals; Feb. 9: 1A-4A Regional semifinals; Feb. 14: 1A-4A Regional finals; Feb. 17: 5A-9A Regional finals; Feb. 21-25: State tournament in Lakeland.
Defending state champs
- 8A: Vero Beach
- 7A: Winter Haven
- 6A: Fort Myers
- 5A: Jacksonville Ribault
- 4A: Lake Highland Prep
- 3A: Miami Country Day
- 2A: FAMU
- 1A: Madison County
- Sydney Jones, Wellington, Jr., G
- Aaliyah Stanley, Oxbridge, So., PG
- Da’Mya Preston, Benjamin, Jr., F
- Kierra Brown, Palm Beach Gardens, So., PG
- Sydni Donovan, Cardinal Newman, Sr., C
Teams to watch
Coach Nhu Nguyen’s Bobcats return three starters from last year’s team, which fell in double overtime to Vero Beach in the Class 8A state title game. Rachel Levy and Grace Marko form a potent one-two offensive punch likely to send Boca back to the championship game. Sneaky-good junior wing Hannah Pratt will make some noise this year too.
The Crusaders, 26-2 last season under veteran coach Dennis Miles, look to win their fourth straight district championship. With 6-foot-4 Furman signee Sydni Donovan giving the team a nice inside presence to complement Fab Five selection Milan Bolden-Morris on the outside, Newman is poised for a deeper playoff run after falling to Lincoln Park in last year’s regional semifinals.
With lightning-fast guards Aaliyah Stanley and Alexa Zaph returning as sophomores, coach Tracy Wolfe has the ThunderWolves looking to push the tempo on offense and defense this season. Could compete with Cardinal Newman for the District 12-5A title.
Palm Beach Central transfer Sydney Jones gives coach Randy Soto an explosive scoring weapon at guard — an absolute necessity if Wellington wants to compete with Boca Raton for Class 9A county honors. The Wolverines aim to improve on last year’s 20-8 mark and can do better than falling to the Bobcats 72-29 in their playoff opener.
After reaching the 4A regional semifinals last year, the Bucs — under third-year coach Willie Shelton — are hoping to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2004. Junior Da’Mya Preston will be counted on to lead the team after a sensational sophomore campaign.